Best Ignatian Songs: Jesus Ahatonhia

Best Ignatian Songs header

“Jesus ahatonhia,” our last Christmas song of the season, is probably the first Christmas carol written in North America. The title means “Jesus, he is born” in the language of the Huron/Wendat native people of Canada. The Jesuit martyr St. Jean de Brébeuf wrote the song in that language. It is a good example of the way the early Jesuit missionaries adapted the ideas and imagery of native people to express Christian concepts. Here is a literal translation from Wendat into English.

It’s also a beautiful song. It has become known as “The Huron Carol,” and has been sung by numerous artists in both French and English. Here is sung by the Canadian artist Heather Dale. The first verse is in Wendat, the second is French, the third is English.

About Jim Manney 787 Articles
Jim Manney is a popular writer on Ignatian topics (God Finds Us, A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer) as well as the editor of many books on Ignatian spirituality, including What Is Ignatian Spirituality? He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

6 Comments on Best Ignatian Songs: Jesus Ahatonhia

  1. Thank you for this post. I haven’t heard that song since I first learned to sing it in English more than 20 years ago. It was beautiful to hear it inWendat & French. Ironically while living in Upstate/ Central NY for 10 years the old stopming ground for the North American Martyrs I never heard it.
    It brought to mind an interesting conversation my husband and I had shortly after Christmas about all of the Carols that we and everyone else seemed to know when we were Children. So many are no longer sung because they are politically incorrect (Good Christian men rejoice of God Rest ye merry Gentlemen) but they have beautiful 2nd & 3rd verses that are overflowing with a wealth of Incarnation theology. To the dismay of our son it sparked a sing along on a long ride in the car. I am happy to say he survived and we remembered.

  2. Such a hauntingly beautiful song and it is the first time I have heard it. I am pleased that you posted it on “Related posts” today.

    An early Christmas gift!

    Many thanks, and blessings to all.

    Suzanne M.

  3. I just returned from a pilgrimage to Ste. Marie Among the Hurons in Midland, Ontario, which is dedicated to the works of Jesuits among the Wendat people. What a joy to hear this beautiful song and the beats just move the heart. Thank you for making it available!!! A real early Christmas gift in this beginning of the fall season.

    Robert W. sj

  4. Thank you. This is the most beautiful carol. I learnt it years ago, teaching in a Steiner school, with slightly different lyrics. It is such a haunting melody.

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