196 years ago tonight, Father Joseph Mohr first performed his song “Stille Nacht” in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.
100 years ago tonight, German and British soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front sang the song together as one of the carols which united them in the famous “Christmas Truce.”
“It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don’t know what they were. And then they sang “Silent Night” – “Stille Nacht.” I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune.”
– Pvt. Albert Moren, Second Queens Regiment
“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”
– Graham Williams, Fifth London Rifle Brigade
“Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as our friends for a time.”
– Lt. Kurt Zehmisch, 134th Saxons Infantry Regiment
“Still, a century later, the truce has been remembered as a testament to the power of hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history.” May that hope continue to inspire us all, serving as a reminder of the peace that is possible when we set aside differences and recognize our common humanity.
Wishing you all the joys of the season, and to those who celebrate, a very merry Christmas!