Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Huron Carol

The Huron Carol” (or “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”) is Canada's oldest Christmas carol and a personal favourite of mine.  

It was written in 1643 by Saint Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron natives. Jean de Brebeuf lived amongst the Huron natives for twenty-two years, became fluent in their language, and made detailed observations about their culture and way of life. He wrote the lyrics to the Huron Carol in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people to bring them the story of Christmas. Even after Jean de Brebeuf was martyred when the Iroquois natives attacked the Huron settlement, the carol was kept alive in the Huron language for over one hundred years before it was translated into French.

I remember visiting Sainte-Marie among the Huron on the south shore of Georgian Bay many years ago. I always love visiting historic places, but this one was especially interesting because it was the first European settlement in Ontario and is where Jean de Brebeuf lived. 

I like this version of the Huron Carol sung by Five Fifths which you can listen to while reading the lyrics below.

Words by Jean de Brébeuf (1643)
English Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)
Set to an Adaptation of the 16th Century French Noel: “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”)
‘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 wand’ring 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
Enwrapped 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
That helpless infant there.

While chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt,
“Jesus, your king, is born.
Jesus is born.  In excelsis gloria!”

O children of the forest free,
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!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, my friends, to you and your family. I'm signing off to spend time with my family, but will be back again after the holidays.


  1. The Huron Carol is one of my favourites! I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

  2. Wow! Just Beautiful. This is the first time I have heard it. Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas to you and yours!
    Diane M.

  3. I love this song, too. It is also the song chosen by Tom Jackson as the theme for his concerts in support of food banks across the country. It is a show worth catching. Did they come out your way this year?