Arcanum News: 200th anniversary of ‘Silent Night’


It’s 15 days before Christmas. Seems impossible to believe that the most wonderful time of year will soon be here and then over. During this time, I often reflect on some of my favorite Christmas music, specifically carols, and find it interesting where they come from, who authored them, when they were written. This year is the 200th anniversary of the carol, “Silent Night.” It has been sung in over 300 languages and dialects around the world. The song’s origins are that Joseph Mohr, the parish priest at St. Nikola Church, the small chapel in the village of Oberndorf near Salzburg, Austria, was worried as Christmas Mass approached in 1818: the organ was in need of repair, and he wanted something special for his congregants.

The priest had an idea, earlier he had written a poem about the nativity, and he knew a nearby teacher, Franz Xaver Gruber, who played the guitar; he asked Gruber to create a melody to accompany his words. The two performed the song for the first time the night of Dec. 24, 1818. The famous Christmas carol was born. Soon after “Silent Night’” was created, singing families from the region carried it from Austria into Europe. Ultimately, it spread throughout the world.

The first performance of the song in the United States was in 1839 in front of Trinity Church in New York City, Sigrid Pichler, manager of public relations for the Austrian Tourist Office in New York, said in an interview. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill song “Silent Night” together in the garden of the White House in Washington, D.C.

In an around Salzburg, Upper Austria and the Tyrol area there are special exhibitions, museum openings, concerts, plays, festivals, themed trails, children’s programs and experiential events, including “a contemplative torch-lite hike” planned in three provinces through Feb. 3, 2019.

Several museums just went through extensive renovations, including The Silent Night Museum in Hallein, which reopened in late September and is the former home of Franz Xaver Gruber, who wrote the lyrics there. On display are authentic autographs and documentation, the priest’s diary, letters and portraits, and the original guitar. The Salzburg Museum is preparing a special exhibition that will provide analysis and visuals that correspond to the six different verses of “Silent Night.”

Speaking of music – here’s a list of the concerts to be at Arcanum Schools in the next two weeks: High School Band and Jazz Band-Monday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.; Arcanum Choir Concert, Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.; High School Band Concert-Monday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., and 3rd/4th Grade Christmas Concert-Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.

The Arcanum Public Library presents Christmas Craft Night on for Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Children will be able to visit with Santa and work on holiday crafts. No registration required.

In two weeks, I will publishing my annual listing of churches in the Arcanum area’s Christmas Eve services. If you would like your church/parish’s information included please contact me via email or telephone. As I have written about in past years, this one night of the year with my family is a tradition to attend a candlelight service together to celebrate on Christmas Eve. May you and yours celebrate the joy of Christmas!

Did you know – In Frankemuth, Michigan on the grounds of Bronner’s Christmas Store there is 56-foot tall landmark – a Silent Night Chapel that is a replica of the original chapel in Oberndorf/Salzburg, Austria. It is open year-round during business hours for visitation and meditation. It is a beautiful place to experience.

By Vickie Rhodehamel

Arcanum News

Vickie Rhodehamel is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her Arcanum community column. She can be reached by calling 937-692-6188, by e-mail at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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