Between now and Christmas, I will offer one post per day, each post dealing with a popular Christmas carol or song. The histories of our favorite Christmas songs are so interesting. My first description is of "Silent Night".......
"Silent Night" is probably the most popular Christmas carol of all time. The original lyrics of the song were penned in German by the Austrian priest, Father Josef Mohr; and the melody was composed by Austrian headmaster, Franz Gruber. Today's version of the melody differs slightly from Gruber's original. Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain.
The reason for a guitar accompaniment---instead of piano or organ---has been supposed that the church organ was inoperable at the time, and therefore a guitar was substituted for the organ. Historians have noted, however, that the first mention of a possible broken organ was in a book published in 1909. Many historians believe that Mohr simply wanted a new carol that he could play on his guitar. The Silent Night Society says there are many romantic stories and legends that add their own anecdotal details to the known facts.
The original manuscript has been lost; however, a new manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers at c. 1820. This shows the date of the words and music as 1816 and 1818, respectively.
Another story claims that the carol, once performed, was forgotten until an organ repairman found the manuscript in 1825 and revived it. This cannot be verified.
The carol has been translated in over 300 languages and dialects around the world. Although written by Catholics, it is given special significance in Lutheranism. The song was sung simultaneously by English and German troops during the Christmas truce of 1914.