Merry Christmas!

From the Latin natalis, meaning birth, Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus in the Christian faith. The holiday’s origins are also connected to the pagan festivities of the winter solstice, which celebrated the return of the sun and of longer stretches of daylight. Many luminous symbols – candles, a blaze in the fireplace, light garlands – remind us of this worship of the sun.

The tradition of celebrating the Christ’s birth on Christmas dates back to the 9th century, many centuries after the beginnings of Christianity. The holiday is celebrated in Canada since the first European settlers arrived in New France.

In the past, the four weeks preceding Christmas, called Advent, were also very important. Nicknamed the “little Lent”, Advent is seen as a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus. Emphasis is put on prayer and penance, before the celebrations begin. Nowadays, this custom has all but disappeared, replaced by all the material trappings associated with the holiday. In fact, Christmas is now a family holiday more than a religious one.

  • A man lights candles placed on the steps in front of a house.

Christmas Songs

Many of these songs bring to mind the holiday’s religious nature and can be heard during Midnight Mass. The famous French hymn Minuit, Chrétiens (Midnight, Christians), sung by the best cantor in the parish, officially launches the festivities. Among other French carols are Il est né le divin enfant (He Is Born, the Divine Child), Venez Divin Messie (Come, divine Messiah), Les anges dans nos campagnes (Angels in the Countryside), Sainte nuit (Holy Night), Nouvelle agréable ! (Great News !), Ça berger (The Shepherd), just to name a few songs that celebrate the Christ’s birth by recalling different aspects of the biblical tale.

A Christmas songbook is also filled with secular airs. These songs talk about the beauty of the winter season or evoke its leisure activities. They also talk of family celebrations and festive traditions besides those having to do with the Nativity. As early as the beginning of November, radio stations begin an uninterrupted broadcast of titles like O Christmas Tree¸ Sleigh Ride, Little Drummer Boy, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Let It Snow, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and so on, in multiple versions.

Adeste Fideles

Download audio (2 minutes 47 seconds, 2.56 MB)

Male voice (André Lamarre) singing Adeste Fideles with piano, violin and bell sounds accompaniment.

Composer: Aubert-Grueber
Performer: André Lamarre, 1944
Source: BAnQ – Digital collection [sound recordings]

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Forsaking the sheepfold,
To his lowly cradle,
Obedient and swiftly run the shepherd throng,
With exultation let our footsteps follow.
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

C’est Noël (It's Christmas)

Download audio (1 minute 57 seconds, 1.80 MB)

Male voice (Odilon Rochon) singing C’est Noël accompanied by piano and bells.

Composer: J. Melançon
Performer: Odilon Rochon, 1930
Source: BAnQ – Digital collection [sound recordings]

A newborn child
In a poor stable
He is the Incarnate Word
The sweet mystery
Angels came
On earth to adore
In his mother's arms
The Child Jesus.

It's Christmas, it's Christmas
Descending from heaven
Let our voices be heard
And proclaim a happy chant
It's Christmas, Christmas
For happy children
Let our voices everywhere
Proclaim happy songs.

For little children
He comes back each year
To leave presents
By the fireplace
Because he loves us so much
We will be the nicest
Of all the neighborhood
The most obedient.

He Is Born, The Heav'nly Child

Download audio (2 minutes 38 seconds, 2.41 MB)

Choir (men and women) singing He Is Born, The Heav'nly Child accompanied by an orchestra.

Performers: Émile Gour, Guillaume Dupuis, Blanche Gonthier and Madeleine Cardinal, 1920
Source: BAnQ – Digital collection [sound recordings]

He is born, the Heav'nly Child,
Oboes play; set bagpipes sounding
He is born, the Heav'nly Child.
Let all sing His nativity.

'Tis four thousand years and more,
Prophets have foretold His coming,
'Tis four thousand years and more,
Have we waited this happy hour.

Ah, how lovely, Ah, how fair,
What perfection is His graces,
Ah, how lovely, Ah, how fair.
Child divine, so gentle there.

In a stable lodged is He,
Straw is all He has for cradle.
In a stable lodged is He,
Oh how great humility!

Leave, great Kings of the Orient!
Come join our feasts
Leave, great Kings of the Orient!

Come and adore this child!

He wants our hearts, he waits for them:

He is here to conquer them
He wants our hearts, he waits for them:
Let's quickly give them to him!

Jesus Lord, O King with power,
Though a little babe You come here,
Jesus Lord, O King with power,
Rule o'er us from this glad hour.

O Holy Night

Download audio (2 minutes 32 seconds, 2.33 MB)

Male voice (Joseph Saucier) singing O Holy Night accompanied by a piano.

Harmonisation: Achille Fortier
Performer: Mr. Joseph Saucier,1920
Source: BAnQ – Digital collection [sound recordings]

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born,
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Appartenance Mauricie Société d'histoire régionale