The Remarkable History of Silent Night the Christmas Carol

Do you know the history of Silent Night? You may think it's just a Christmas carol, but in truth, it is much more than that. It has been passed down through generations and holds deep meaning for many people around the world. Take a look at this blog post to learn about its remarkable history!

Where did it all begin?

Silent Night was originally written in the German language and was known as Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. Today, Silent Night is one of the world’s best known Christmas carols and is translated and sung in over 300 languages! UNESCO designated Silent Night as a treasured item of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.

Who Wrote Silent Night?

On Christmas Eve in 1818 pastor Joseph Franz Mohr (1792-1848) walked 3 kilometers from his home in the Austrian village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg to visit his friend Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863) in the neighboring town of Arnsdorf bei Laufen. Mohr brought with him a poem he had written some two years earlier. He desperately needed a carol for the Christmas Eve midnight mass that was only hours away. He hoped his friend, a school teacher who also served as the church’s choirmaster and organist, could set his poem to music. 

The church organ was out of commission due to recent flooding so Gruber composed Silent Night music for a guitar accompaniment. Gruber completed his composition and within a few hours he and Mohr stood before the altar of the St Nicholas Church in Oberndorf to perform Silent Night with a local choir backing.

There is a stained glass window dedicated to Franz Gruber in the chapel in Oberndorf with an image of the original St Nicholas Church.

Silent Night and World War 1 

A few weeks before 25th December, 1914, German and British soldiers began  widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front. The soldiers crossed trenches and exchanged food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. 

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and sang Christmas carols including Silent Night, the British responded by also singing Christmas carols.

The original first verse of Silent Night in German:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent Night translated into English from original German version: 

Silent night! Holy night!
Everything is asleep.
Only the faithful holy couple are awake, alone.
Lovely boy with curly hair.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Standard English version by John Freeman Young: 

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Our version of Silent Night is one of the most watched versions on YouTube.

Silent Night Video Song with Lyrics:

The history of Silent Night is pretty amazing and it's a great story to share this holiday season. If you want more Christmas stories, check out the Story Behind Jingle Bells!

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