’Twas in the moon of wintertime

’Twas in the moon of wintertime. [St] Jean de Brébeuf*, SJ (1593-1649). Like the Bach-Gounod ‘Ave Maria’, this hymn owes its fame to what a respectful admirer grafted onto a sturdy but unspectacular rootstock. The Huron Indians who settled in the early 19th century at L’Ancienne Lorette, near Quebec City, had in their oral tradition a Christmas hymn which had been taught 150 years earlier, ca. 1643, to their ancestors living in the Midland region near Georgian Bay and which they attributed to the Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf. One of the earliest Canadian hymns, it was among a set of hymns and chants transcribed by a Huron-speaking priest, Étienne-Thomas Girault de Villeneuve, SJ, who...

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