Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Legends About Silent Night

There are obscure Christmas legends, and then there are the legends almost everyone remembers. Silent Night is a Christmas carol that has evoked a powerful response, and people seem compelled to shroud it with stories and mystery.

Some Facts

These are the facts we know for sure about Silent Night despite the various stories surrounding the famous Christmas carol.
--An Austrian priest by the name of Father Josef Mohr composed the original lyrics to Stille Nacht in German.
--An Austrian headmaster, Franz Xavier Gruber, composed the melody, which differed slightly from the version we use today.
--Mohr wrote the song in 1816, but it wasn't performed until Christmas Eve of 1818 at the Nicola-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria.
--Gruber's original melody was written for guitar.

The Myths

Out of these simple facts came many Christmas legends of Silent Night. Including some of these myths and some legends where the truth is simply unknown.
--The organ broke and Gruber and Mohr quickly composed the melody for the song on guitar instead;
Truth: The first mention of this legend doesn't occur until 1909, long after the song's debut.
--The carol was performed to a magnificent reception, but promptly forgotten. In 1825, an organ repairman found the long-lost manuscript and brought it to the attention of the public once more.
Truth: Mohr and Gruber published several versions of the song throughout their lifetimes.
--Mice ate through the organ bellows, necessitating the use of the guitar.
Truth: There is no evidence of this, just like the other organ myth. Some have theorized that Gruber used his guitar just because he was looking for an excuse to play it in church. Unlike many Christmas legends, this one might actually be true.

Silent Night in War

Silent Night has had a profound impact on people around the world, and the Internet gives you access to many soldiers from a variety of battles who found peace in its melody.
The most famous, of course, is the temporary truce shared by German and American soldiers during the Christmas of 1914.
Unlike many Christmas legends, this story has been downplayed, not exaggerated, as years passed. Military officials disliked the truce, and they doubly disliked the fact that soldiers on both sides refused to resume firing at one another for some time afterwards.But while Silent Night was the song that started soldiers on both sides singing together, the following days saw soldiers playing soccer, exchanging gifts, and meeting behind enemy lines, all in the name of Christmas.
So while many Christmas legends are silly, sentimental, or just plain nonsense, keep in mind that not only are some true, but that they can be the most inspiring of all.