This Christmas Eve, like the previous one, is unusually silent around the world, with the trauma of the pandemic weighing us down.
Two hundred years ago, war, natural catastrophes and poverty were what drove an Austrian priest to pen the famous “Silent Night, Holy Night” poem.
Stille Nacht, Holy Night Background
The 2nd decade of the 19th century was not a good one for many parts of the world. In Europe, there was the Napoleonic wars that ravaged parts of Europe including Austria.
Nature didn’t make matters easier, either. A series of volcanic eruptions in Indonesia 1815 would have global consequences – from famine in Asia to calamities in Europe. Many rivers breached with flooding because of heavy rains and parts of Europe witnessed the coldest summer, with frost being reported in Hungary. There were also reports of brown and red snow.
All this led to hunger and poverty.
It was in this background that a local priest Joseph Mohr penned the poem “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” in 1816. Two years later, on the day of Christmas Eve, he took it to Franz Gruber, a teacher and an organist to create the melody so that it could be sung at that night’s mass in the church in Oberndorf in Salzburg.
And so it was sung on that evening.
Symbol of Hope
But Joseph Mohr wrote this poem as a symbol of hope for humanity and the world has recognized it. The “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” song has been translated into at least 140 languages (BBC says it has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects).
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added to its “Intangible Cultural Heritage List” iun 2011.
“Although it comes from the Catholic tradition, its calm, harmonic sound has made it accessible internationally. As such, it’s not just a Christian song, but also a human song,” Michael Neureiter, the then president of Austria’s Silent Night Society was quoted as saying by the BBC when the honor was bestowed upon.
And so, it is only appropriate that this song is sung at these troubling times.
Here is a video I created for this occasion.
- Music: SoundIdea
- Videos: Louai Munajim (starry sky), Helder Sato (starry sky) and myself (snow and starry sky photo).
- Greetings Gfx: Niebsie