Celebrating 200 years of Silent Night
ith its beautiful lyrics and haunting melody, Silent Night has become probably the world’s best-known Christmas carol. But it all started on Christmas Eve at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, in the Austrian Tyrol, 200 years ago. Back in 1816, local priest Joseph Mohr wrote a simple poem. Two years later organist Franz Xaver Gruber composed the melody, and they first performed it together on Christmas Eve 1818. The church’s organ was broken that night so it was just the two of them and a guitar, singing a simple message of peace.
The carol’s fame has grown around the world since then. It’s been translated into 300 languages and declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. And with the 200th anniversary of that first performance approaching, the history of the carol and the lives and works of its creators are being remembered through Silent Night Land Salzburg, a series of events and locations in seven areas of the Salzburg region which have a link to the song.
There’s the city of Salzburg where Franz Xaver Gruber was born and Arnsdorf where he worked as a teacher and organist. Mariapfarr where Joseph Mohr was born and where he wrote the carol’s lyrics. Oberndorf where they came together and performed the carol together for the first time. Hintersee where Mohr was a pastor and helped the poor. And their final resting places – in Wagrain-Kleinarl for Mohr and Hallein for Gruber.
The creators and their work are memorialised in museums, churches and with special performances. There’s singing at Gruber’s grave each Christmas Eve, a tradition that’s been going since 1849, and the Joseph Mohr Memorial Singing event in Wagrain-Kleinarl on Boxing Day. With its location in SalzburgerLand’s Grossarl Valley, the Small Luxury Hotels of the World GROSSARLER HOF is the perfect place to explore the Silent Night locations as you enjoy an Advent or Christmas stay in this Austrian winter wonderland.
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