Amerindians

The earliest mention of the celebration of Christmas by Amerindians dates back to 1641. Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary who lived with the Georgian Bay Hurons from 1626, composed a Christmas carol in their language telling the story of the birth of the Infant Jesus.
Father Brébeuf wanted to convey a real sense of the great mystery of the Nativity and so adapted his story, written in verse, to the distinctive characteristics of the Amerindian culture. Thus the Infant Jesus was wrapped in rabbit skin rather than linen swaddling clothes, he slept in a lodge of broken bark and not in a manger; hunters replaced the shepherds and, as a final touch, three Indian chiefs were substituted for the Wise Men who, instead of gold, incense and myrrh, offered fur skins to the holy Child.

The Jesous Ahatonnia (Jesus is born) of Jean de Brébeuf is the first Canadian Christmas carol. Although Father Brébeuf perished in a massacre of the Hurons by the Iroquois in 1649, his carol has survived. Huron descendants who settled in Lorette near Quebec City passed this carol on to their descendants who still sing it a century later. Another Jesuit, Father Villeneuve, wrote down the words when he heard this hymn being sung.

Today the Hurons, like many other Amerindian nations, continue to celebrate the Nativity as well as the festival of Saint Anne (July 26), the grandmother of Jesus, whom they venerate as their patron saint.