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This year is the 200th anniversary of the Christmas carol Silent Night
Silent Night has been translated into at least 300 languages and arranged in dozens of musical styles.
The song’s lyrics were originally written in German, just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, by a young Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr.
Mohr’s congregation was poverty-stricken, hungry and traumatized. So he crafted a set of six poetic verses to convey hope that there was still a God who cared.
In 1817 at St. Nicholas parish in Oberndorf, just south of Salzburg, Mohr asked schoolteacher and organist Franz Gruber to write the music.
On Christmas Eve 1818, the two friends first sang Silent Night to Mohr’s congregation, with Mohr playing his guitar.
German-speaking missionaries translated and spread the song from Tibet to Alaska.
Silent Night carries an important Christmas Eve message. But the song’s lilting melody and peaceful lyrics also remind us of a universal sense of grace that transcends Christianity and unites people across cultures and faiths.
This message was never more important than during the Christmas Truce of 1914, when, at the height of World War I, German and British soldiers on the front lines in Flanders laid down their weapons on Christmas Eve and together sang “Silent Night.”
This message of peace, even in the midst of suffering, has bridged cultures and generations. Great songs do this. They offer comfort and solace.
So, happy anniversary, “Silent Night.” May your message continue to resonate across future generations.
—By Sarah Eyerly via Tom Huening
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