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Christmas Carol Origins: Silent Night

Silent Night was first performed in 1818 on Christmas Eve in Oberndorf, Austria under not-so-ideal circumstances. A group of actors were touring Austria performing the story of Christ’s birth and on December 23, 1818, they came to Oberndorf to perform at the Church of St. Nicolas. Unfortunately, the churches organ had broken because of recent flooding. The actors performed in a private home instead. Assistant Pastor at Church of St. Nicolas, Josef Mohr walked home that night contemplating a poem he had written one year prior (in 1817). Pastor Josef thought that those poetic words may serve as a good carol for his congregations’ Christmas Eve service the next night.

Pastor Josef soon got together with the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber to ask him to develop a melody for the song. The following night, Pastor Josef and Franz sung Silent Night for the first time to the accompaniment of Franz playing his guitar.

Today the words of “Silent Night” are sung around the world in more than 300 different languages.

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