As we get ever closer to Christmas Day I was considering on how busy and active things get, but some of the most memorable parts of Christmas’s have been very calm and quiet moments. That made me think of the song “Silent Night” and I know I had heard of its origin but had forgotten, so I thought I would look it up. Good thing I did because it just so happens that tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the writing of that hymn.
I found the history of it in a book I have, and then went on-line to find numerous other versions, but all of them had some parts in common that I will take as true. Fr. Joseph Mohr wrote the words for the song and the music was composed by Franz Xavier Gruber, the organist at the parish, and it was first performed in public on December 24th, 1818 at St. Nikolai (or Nicholas in English) church in Oberndorf Austria. That first time it was also not accompanied by the organ, since some say the organ was broken, but rather by a guitar. This leads into the next point in that it was the organ repairman, Karl Mauracher, who heard them play it when he came to repair their organ who then would spread it around many villages he traveled to in the Austrian Alps. By the early 1830’s it managed to spread further by some traveling folk singers and would be heard in a few royal courts and in 1839 was reportedly first performed in America.
The original arrangement cannot be verified but there are a few different manuscripts of the carol found that were written by Gruber, and one by Joseph Mohr that is believed to date to 1820. The common current arrangement is believed to be only slightly different. And the words always change slightly with translations but hopefully still carry the same meaning that will hopefully help you find the calm and peace of Christ.
May you and your families have a Merry Christmas.