Silent Night Lyrics & Story

“Silent Night” Lyrics

Silent Night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
‘Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent Night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

Silent Night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

Download a beautiful watercolor image with the “Silent Night” lyrics!

The Story of “Silent Night

Silent Night: A Humble Beginning

“Silent Night” is one of the most well-known Christian Christmas songs of all time. Its history dates back to the early 1800s, when an Austrian priest and a local choir director penned the words and music for this beautiful Christmas hymn. Little did they know that their collaboration on a simple song would become a beloved tradition for generations to come. 

Josef Mohr lived in Salzburg, Austria, in the early 1800s. He was born into extreme poverty and eventually adopted as a foster child by the local Catholic cathedral. There he trained to become a priest and developed a deep love of music. He later took a position as the assistant priest at the newly opened St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria.

Sunset at Oberndorf, Austria: home of the “Silent Night” Christmas song.

While serving as a young priest at St. Nicholas, Mohr met Franz Xaver Gruber, a local school teacher, and the church organist. The two became great friends whose names would be linked together for all of history.   

On December 24, 1818, Mohr gave Gruber a poem entitled “Silent Night,” which he had written nearly two years prior. He asked him to put it to music for the Christmas celebration that evening, as a last-minute music change was needed because of a malfunctioning organ! Later that day, the now-famous notes were complete. (Gruber documented this in his 1854 “Authentic Account of the Origins of the Christmas Carol, ‘”Silent Night,” Holy Night.’”)

Christmas Eve celebrates the coming birth of Jesus, but it was also the first time “Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night” in German) was ever performed. That night, at St. Nicholas Church, Mohr played the guitar and sang tenor, while Gruber sang bass for the congregation’s  Christmas celebration. The lyrics and beautiful lilting melody captured the hearts of those who heard it, and they continued to sing it throughout the region each Christmas season.

A Christmas Carol Tradition

In the years that followed, “Silent Night” spread throughout the world, starting in European countries. The first public performance in America came on Christmas Day, 1839. The traveling Rainer singers from Germany shared the hymn outside Trinity Church in New York City. 

(Fun fact: Researcher Martin Reiter found the oldest published version of “Silent Night” outside of Europe in March 2018. The date reads: 1840, New York.) 

Not until after both Gruber and Mohr died was “Silent Night” included in an official church hymnbook in Salzburg. The original copy of the “Silent Night” lyrics, in Mohr’s handwriting (found in 1994) also lists Gruber as the composer. Mohr’s original version includes six verses, but only three are traditionally sung in English today.

“Silent Night” is now available in more than 300 languages, and there are thousands of arrangements for vocal and instrumental ensembles. On Christmas Eve 1914 in the midst of World War I, this familiar song gave comfort to enemy soldiers on a European battlefield as they put aside their weapons and instead sang together in French, German, and English during the Christmas truce.

In 2018 the world celebrated 200 years of “Silent Night.” Still today, a variety of museums and other memorials honor the work and lives of these two men who unknowingly gave the world a beautiful, meaningful Christmas tradition. 

Join in the “Silent Night” Celebration! 

The original St. Nicholas Church is gone, but a “Silent Night” Chapel stands in its place to remember the important work created there more than two centuries ago. 

The “Silent Night” Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria.

Every Christmas Eve at 5 PM Central Europe Time (11 AM CST), a celebration at the Oberndorf location honors this hymn and its creators. The program broadcasts live each Christmas Eve, hosted by The “Silent Night” Association

Bring the history of the “Silent Night” lyrics and music to life! Watch this full-length film that shares the true story of “Silent Night” and how Mohr brought this beloved classic to the world.

Download our beautiful image with the “Silent Night” lyrics!

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