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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Opinion: Story Behind 'Silent Night' By Manuel L Caballero





This is "On My Watch" Christmas 2023 issue. 

First, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Healthier and More Productive Year.


One Christmas book I treasure is Ace Collins' "Stories Behind The Best Loved Songs of Christmas." It contains lyrics and stories of 31 familiar Holiday songs and carols.

As the author said in his introductory words, "Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your Christmas celebration."

I have selected a familiar song whose story, I want to share with OMW readers. It is "Silent Night."

The most recorded and most listened to Christmas carol around the world is Silent Night. 

It was composed as a poem in 1816 by  25-year-old Austrian assistant priest Joseph Mohr. Its lyrics were originally written in German, "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." (I remember singing this German version in UP and in Bulacan with my high school classmates during caroling). For two years, the poem was just stored in Fr. Mohr's apartment. Fr. Mohr was to celebrate Christmas Eve mass in his little church in 1818 when he discovered that the church organ was not working and could not be repaired in time for his mass.

The young priest remembered his poem. He thought his friend, Franz Gruber, a 31-year-old school music teacher could help him solve his dilemma. He brought the original copy of "Stille Nacht" to Mr. Gruber and requested him to put music into it that can be sung by a tiny church choir to be accompanied by guitar in the absence of the church organ. Thus, Silent Night was born and sang for the first time in that rural Austrian Church.

The rest is history. It was not until 1839 that "Silent Night" was brought to America and was sang in Trinity Church in Downtown Manhattan.

Before being recognized as "Silent Night" writer, Joseph Mohr died penniless in 1848. (Maria Carey, Elvis Presley, et al, are more fortunate).

According to Collins, by the late 1800s, "Silent  Night" had been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1905, the first recording of the carol was cut. By 1960, "Silent Night" was regarded as the most recorded song in music history.


Again, as Jose Feliciano sings, "I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart."


"Silent Night, holy night!

Son of God love's pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth." 


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