“Silent Night” – The Real Story

  • December 17, 2018

Here is the story of the song “Silent Night” as it is taught in Austrian schools –

Few Christmas songs are better known and performed as often as “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”. This year this beloved song celebrates it’s 200th “Birthday”. The popular song was born in 1818 in the village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, a city better known as the birthplace of Mozart and “The Sound of Music”

That year, on Christmas Eve, Joseph Mohr, assistant priest at the Church of St. Nicholas, discovered that the church organ wasn’t working and had to come up with something for Midnight Mass. The stories go that the organ’s bellows was chewed by mice or that it was too rusty. Though we’ll probably never know which one is the truth, if not the organ being inoperable, chances are, that this beautiful song would have never come about.

Mohr remembered a simple poem he had written a couple of years earlier. The problem was he needed music with the poem…fast. He raced to the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Mohr asked Gruber to come up with a melody quickly, as they needed it that very evening. Gruber came through with the composition that afternoon, accompanied by a guitar. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” debuted the following Midnight Mass.

Stille Nacht MS 1836

Click below to hear one verse of “Stille Nacht” sung by Brigitte as she used to sing in her church in her hometown of St. Johann in Tirol in Austria:

The song is considered as a symbol of Love, hope, peace and solidarity and quickly gained local popularity around Oberndorf. It was taken to a wider audience by two families of singers, The Strassers and the Rainers, both from the Zillertal region of Austria. They traveled through Austria & Germany performing the song wherever they went and made the song famous. The Rainers travelled beyond Germany, taking “Stille Nacht” to international audiences, including America, where they toured from 1839 – 1843. Ten years later the English version was published by an American priest, John Freeman Youg 

“Stille Nacht” has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects, and in countries all around the world Christmas would not be Christmas without it. It was also sung during the 1914 1914 Christmas Truce which was particularly touching.

Stille Nacht 1832

May your holidays include the traditions which make your holidays special – hoping it includes a ski run or two – from the Wedgewood Lodge!