Ten days until Christmas and we’ve had snow, bright stars, the last super-moon of 2016, appropriately called the Long Night’s Moon. It’s time to bring out the Christmas cds, time to put on the old carols to accompany the baking (shortbreads today — trees with chopped rosemary, for remembrance; pigs and coyotes and fish with lemon zest; stars and squirrels and sinuous cats with Chamayo chile). When I was a child, singing in school choirs, my favourite seasonal song was “The Huron Carol”. Written by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary, in c.1642, the carol is a version of the Nativity story, and I know it’s an example of colonial imposition at its worst, but it’s also beautiful. It was written in Wyandot, the Huron language, and some musicians — notably Bruce Cockburn — sing it that way:
Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh ‘ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.
But when I remember the child in school gymnasiums, singing with classmates, with tears in her eyes (because even then music had the power to do that to me), it’s the English translation I long for. And this one, Tom Jackson, of Cree and English background, is a version to stir the most stubborn heart. This time of year, Tom travels the country, performing a concert he calls The Huron Carole to support food banks (“Defeating Hunger, Feeding the Soul” is the concert’s slogan).
The earliest moon of wintertime
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, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.
So listen to Tom Jackson, whether you’re baking shortbread or wrapping gifts or doing whatever needs doing this time of year. Your soul will thank you.