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Civil War Blog

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Silent Night (Stille Nacht)

Posted By on December 24, 2011

SILENT NIGHT (Stille Nacht)

The facts of how and why Fr. Joseph Mohr wrote the poem in 1818 in Austria which was set to music by church organist Franz Gruber have been lost in time.  What has not been lost is the tradition that evolved from the hymn, a tradition which exists down to the present day in churches throughout the land.  At the conclusion of Christmas Eve midnight services and masses, the santuary is darkened of all electric light, candles are lit, and the congregation sings the Mohr-Gruber hymn, now the most famous of all Christmas carols.

The hymn was brought to America by German immigrants in the period before the Civil War and was popular in both north and south.

Soldiers, waiting in camps during the long cold winter, sang the song which reminded them of home – the loved ones they left behind – and the traditions and solitude of Christmas past.  With the Lutheran and Reformed background of many of the soldiers of the Lykens Valley area, the words of the German language were known and understood.  The YouTube version presented above is by St. Thomas Boys Choir.

Another version, as sung by the Innsbrucker Capellknaben, is accompanied by harp.  The original version was accompanied by a string instrument because the organ was supposedly not working.

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The German lyrics are from http://silentnight.web.za/translate/deu.htm:

1. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,
| Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh! |

2. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
| Jesus in deiner Geburt! |

3. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
| Jesum in Menschengestalt! |

4. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß,
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
| Jesus die Völker der Welt! |

5. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
| Aller Welt Schonung verhieß! |

6. Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
| “Jesus der Retter ist da!” |

 


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