Oh, what joy it is to sing Christmas carols to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do you have a favorite song? A favorite musical arrangement of a holiday carol? Perhaps you have a favorite memory of singing carols in the past? And if you’re like me, you wish to discover the origin of one of these traditional Christmas carols.
Silent Night was written by Josef Mohr and set to music by Franz Gruber in 1818. The traditional story speaks about actors arriving at the Church of St. Nicolas in Oberndorf, Austria, on December 23rd to re-enact a musical drama of Christ’s birth. But mice had damaged the organ’s bellows, rendering it inoperable—silent.
Bill Egan, Christmas Historian, tells the true story. On December 24th, Father Josef Mohr asked the church organist, Franz Gruber, to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for a six-stanza poem he’d written two years earlier. The two men sang, the choir repeating the last two lines of each verse, while the priest played the carol on his guitar at Christmas Mass.
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.
But the story doesn’t end there. Karl Mauracher, a well-known organ builder, often fixed the organ and heard Franz Gruber play Silent Night. He shared the composition in his hometown of Kapfing where two families of singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, included it in their Christmas programs. In 1838, the Rainers sang Silent Night in German in the United States, but the carol wasn’t translated into English until 1863 by John Freeman Young.
Today, Silent Night is a favorite Christmas carol sung around the world.
Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
*This article first appeared on Stitches Thru Time Writers.