Here’s a Christmas Carol that you might not be familiar with. I was first introduced to it in Louise Penny’s book How the Light Gets In. Now it’s one of my favorite songs of the season.
The Huron Carol is Canada’s oldest Christmas song. It was written in the Huron language in 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. The song’s melody is based on a traditional French folk song, “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”). Tragically Father de Brébeuf was martyred in 1649 by the Iroquois.
The English version, written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton, uses imagery more familiar in the early 20th century rather than the classic Nativity story.
“Jesus is born in a “lodge of broken bark” and wrapped in a “robe of rabbit skin”. He is surrounded by hunters instead of shepherds, and the Magi are portrayed as “chiefs from afar” who bring him “fox and beaver pelts” instead of the more familiar gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The hymn also uses a traditional Algonquian name, Gitchi Manitou, for God.”