Is it chance or fate? Luck or divine intervention? How can it be that a short, simple Christmas song – a song that only needed a few hours for its composition – could gain such global fame? And all that in a time without Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? In a time when there was no such thing as radio or television? And during an era of human history over which war, hunger, misery and hardship cast a heavy shadow. Hope was a big word and there was little time for dreams.
“Those who only understand the things
which can be explained
understand very little.”
(Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)
A longing for depth
The song was created without there ever being the intention that it should one day become famous. It was created, however, with the intention of comforting and consoling people, to give them hope and to strengthen them in their faith. In the belief that there is someone there who will accept them: A good, but not a punishing God. Joseph Mohr, the composer of the poem “Silent Night!” was a trained theologian and assistant priest. And he had a strong and unshakeable faith. He allowed this to influence the lines of the poem’s six verses.
A lullaby for the world
Franz Xaver Gruber appeared to immediately comprehend the profoundness and depth of these words: He composed a song in the lullaby siciliano rhythm. A lullaby for the newly born baby Jesus. A lullaby song for us all. A song in which everyone can find themselves. A song that makes people feel safe and feel that they belong. The song’s fame may seem like a miracle, but it most certainly is not. The song was a stroke of genius!
And so the global spread of the song was successful thanks to the Tirolean national singers: From the Zillertal valley throughout the rest of Europe, from Europe to America, to Russia, and through religious missionaries, throughout the entire world. Wherever the song was sung, it made people immediately sit up and listen. Almost as if it had a secret key to the hearts and souls of all who heard it. And even though its origins were not always clear, its cultural heritage was never lost. The exact opposite is in fact the case: It has become a song for world peace and it is also recognised and listed by UNESCO as a piece of world heritage.
A timeless piece of music
The song has already been a “worldwide hit” for a long time, even though some do not like this description: There is hardly any global star worth their salt who have not given and recorded their own version of the song in the course of their musical career. It is a best seller. It is a sure-fire success. You never get tired of hearing it, perhaps because it is reserved for a very special time of year: the period running up to Christmas, advent and Christmas Eve. It is the time during which we want to reflect again on what’s really most important: Family and peaceful co-existence. The simplicity and the real meaning of life. All of that is reflected in “Silent Night!” and this is why the song is so timelessly modern.