The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Twas In the Moon of Wintertime

The Huron Christmas Carol

Father Jean de Brebeuf, English Words by J. E. Middleton, 1926

Music: Jesous Ahatonhia, French Canadian melody

'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 wond'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!

O children of the forest free,
O songs of Manitou
The Holy Child of earth and heav'n
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!

William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

"’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime," generally considered the first Canadian carol, was originally written in the Huron Indian language in 1640 and set to an old French tune by a Jesuit priest, Jean de Brebeuf. In retelling the story of the Nativity, Father Brebeuf used symbols and figures that could be understood by the Hurons, and the hymn entered the tribe s oral tradition. It was sung by the Hurons in Ontario until 1649, when the Iroquois killed Father Brebeuf, wiped out the Jesuit mission and drove the Hurons from their home. In Quebec, to which many of the Hurons escaped, the carol re-emerged and was translated into English and French. This version is still sung today throughout Canada and is considered a national treasure that it has been celebrated on a set of Canadian postage stamps.

Twas In The Moon Of Wintertime / The Huron Carol

Info from

Saint Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Hurons, wrote this carol in their language as both gift and to help in his missionary and teaching efforts. Pere Brebeuf's carol was translated by Jesse Edgar Middleton who died in 1960. The carol was in recent years included in an album by Bruce Cockburn. It was included in "The Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada" in 1971. It is also found in the Methodist Hymnal.

The carol is variously known as "The Huron Carol" or as " 'Twas In The Moon Of Winter Time." The music for this piece is hauntingly beautiful as you can tell from the MIDI now playing. The music, known as Jesous Ahatonhia, was arranged by H. Barrie Cabena. This particular version is from the Christmas music page at Jack's Shack (an incredible collection).

You may purchase copies of the words and music (the text and music version as it appears in most hymnbooks - written by Jean de Brebeiuf, translated by Jesse Edgar Middleton and music arranged by H. Barrie Cabena) of the Huron Carol by contacting the copyright holders, The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited.


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