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The Jesuit Jean de Brébeuf arrived in what is now Canada in 1625 and set about to live with, understand and, of course, convert the people he met. He settled amongst the Huron, and after learning the language, wrote the first dictionary of the language.

More than a century later, a priest at La jeune Lorette, Qué heard a Huron man from the Eastern Georgian Bay area sing a Christian hymn to the nativity in his own language. The priest wrote it down, giving it the title Jesous Ahatonhia. Tradition holds that Père de Brébeuf wrote the hymn and taught it to the indigenous people of the area, and that they had passed it down. Evidence is scarce, but the story is a nice one.

The carol has been translated in English and French and has been a staple of Canadian Christmas for more than two centuries.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wandering hunters heard the hymn

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round
And as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fur and beaver pelt

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
O children of the forest free
O sons of Manitou
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa ‘ndasqua entai
ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa ‘ndi yaun rashata
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh ‘ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Asheh kaunnta horraskwa deh ha tirri gwames
Tishyaun ayau ha’ndeh ta aun hwa ashya a ha trreh
aundata:kwa Tishyaun yayaun yaun n-dehta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Dau yishyeh sta atyaun errdautau ‘ndi Yisus
avwa tateh dn-deh Tishyaun stanshi teya wennyau
aha yaunna torrehntehn yataun katsyaun skehnn
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Eyeh kwata tehnaunnte aheh kwashyehn ayehn
kiyeh kwanaun aukwayaun dehtsaun we ‘ndeh adeh
tarrya diskwann aunkwe yishyehr eya ke naun sta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

In recent years, actor Tom Jackson has been mobilizing the Carol to bring relief to Canadians in need. This year, 2016, marks the 29th consecutive year that Tom has brought The Huron Carole on tour for Canadian Christmas. The show supports food banks and other sources of relief.

From huroncarole.ca:

 The Huron Carole brings “those we help” together with “those who give” for a night of breaking bread, breaking barriers, and celebrating our roles in the world of social responsibility.

The Huron Carole is a Christmas story.  A story filled with reflection, humor, passion, and the journey of a homeless man through darkness to light. Traditional, contemporary and signature music releases the spirit of Christmas into one’s heart.  Miracles do not go out of style.

Tom Jackson, founder of The Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series, is a musician, beloved TV personality (North of 60, Star Trek, Law and Order), and long-time champion for the marginalized. Having experienced life on the streets himself, he discovered music was a way to help others.

The Huron Carole is a project of the Christmas & Winter Relief Association whose mandate is to support organizations doing hands-on work with the homeless and hungry in Canada.