Silent Night – a favorite since 1818

The Christmas carol, Silent Night, has been a favorite since 1818. Originally written and sung in German (Stille Nacht – Heilige Nacht), the popular hymn has been translated into nearly 140 languages. It is now heard all over the world and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO In 2011.

First Introduced

Silent Night was first sung at the St. Nicholas parish in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf near Salzburg. At that time, Oberndorf was a poor community along the Salzach River. Their young parish priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had written the lyrics to Stille Nacht two years earlier in nearby Mariapfarr where he had worked as an assistant. Then, on Christmas Eve in 1818, just hours before the Christmas mass, Father Mohr found himself in a pickle. His plans for the evening service lay in shambles. In the aftermath of a flooding of the Salzach, the church organ no longer worked. Distraught, Father Mohr grabbed his old poem and set off to find Franz Xaver Gruber, the church organist. He prayed fervently that Gruber would be able to create a melody and guitar accompaniment for his poem in time for Christmas mass. Indeed, the organist is said to have composed the melody within a few short hours, and Stille Nacht was sung that night. Gruber had composed a lively tune in 6/8 time. http://www.kalenderblatt.de

Then Forgotten

Thereafter, Silent Night was forgotten. Six years later, an organ builder found the score again and took it home. But it wasn’t until 1831, that Stille Nacht quickly gained in popularity. After it was sung in Leipzig, Germany, the German Kaiser, Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, had the hymn sung in his castle every year and instructed the royal court orchestra to include it in its repertoire.

Silent Night during the Christmas truce of 1914

In 1859, the Episcopalian bishop, John Freeman Young, published the English translation, although today, we sing only three of the original six verses. Silent Night was sung simultaneously in French, English and German by the troops during the Christmas truce of 1914 during World War I. It was the only carol that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.

Silent night, Holy night! – Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!

All is calm, all is bright – Alles schlaeft, einsam wacht

Round yon virgin, mother and child – Nur das traute hochheilige Paar

Holy infant so tender and mild – Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar

Sleep in heavenly peace – Schlaf in seliger Ruh!

Sleep in heavenly peace – Schlaf in seliger Ruh!

 

Silent night, Holy night! – Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!

Shepherds quake at the sight. -Hirten erst kundgemacht

Silent night, Holy night! – Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!

Glories stream from Heaven afar – Durch der Engel halleluja

Heavenly hosts sing hallelujah – Toent es laut von fern und nah

Christ the Savior is born – Christ, der Retter is da!

Christ the Savior is born – Christ, der Retter is da!

 

Silent night, Holy night! – Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!

Son of God, love’s pure light – Gottes Sohn o wie lacht

Radiant beams from thy holy face – Lieb aus deinem goettlichen Mund

With the dawn of redeeming grace – Da uns schlaegt die rettende Stund’

Jesus, Lord at thy birth – Christ in deiner Geburt

Jesus, Lord at thy birth – Christ in deiner Geburt

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply