The Huron Carol

The first of eight cross-curricular lesson plans on Ballads for Christmas for Middle School, Secondary School, High School, KS3 children, with songs and animations, poetry analysis and writing, music analysis, art projects, documentary/film-making and more.


The Huron Carol
Animation by Paula Downes, music by Andrew Downes, poetry by Saint Jean de Brébeuf.


The Poem
'Twas in the moon of winter-time,
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.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped his beauty round:
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel-song rang loud and high.
Jesus your King is born.

The earliest moon of winter-time 
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 fox and beaver-pelt.
Jesus your King is born.

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 this radiant Boy,
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born.


Poetry Background
The "Huron Carol" is a Canadian Christmas hymn written around 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, the first European settlement in what is now the province of Ontario in Canada. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people with the title,  "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born").  The English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton. Notice the Huron religious concepts: 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 English translation uses a traditional Native American name, Gitchi Manitou, for God, which is not in the original Wyandot version. 

Watch this video: Native Americans History and Culture



Now watch this video on Wyandot Nation History: 



And finally this video on the role of women in Wendat Society in the 17th Century:



Documentary Task
Create and film a documentary on the Wendat Huron people. Use the internet to do some research. You can include maps, images, re-enactments and more.



Music Analysis
1.Listen to the harp introduction and notice how snippets of this music come back throughout the song, similar to Ritornello Form. (Also look at the use of Ritornello form in the Da Capo Aria) Listen to the lower part in the introduction and notice how this idea returns between and during vocal entries.
2.Watch this video about ostinatos and then notice the use of ostinatos in the accompaniment in this song. Why do you think the composer uses ostinatos at these points in the song?


3.Notice the different ways the composer sets the line 'Jesus your king is born' at the end of each verse. Listen out for rounds.
4. Listen out for unison singing, octaves, and moments when it goes into thick chords. Decide why the composer has chosen to use these different textures at these different points.
5. Notice when the voices are accompanied or unaccompanied and describe the accompaniment, again deciding why the composer chose these elements at each point.



Art Project
Make a Dream catcher! Follow this link to learn more about Dream catchers.

Watch this video about Wendat Dreamcatcher legends:


Now watch this tutorial to learn how to make your own dreamcatcher.



Move on to Pilgrims in Mexico


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