Please choose Language or Country
Magazine Home

Singing families from Zillertal spread the song around the world

Maybe the soft melody and the hopeful text would have gradually disappeared into oblivion. However, two families from the Zillertal Valley propelled “Silent Night, Holy Night” into being the most famous and loved Christmas song of all times.

A priest and his poem, a teacher and his musical composition, a church in the village of Oberndorf, Christmas 1818, the desire for peace: these were the humble beginnings of the song of peace which later acclaimed global popularity.

It’s unbelievable reach was brought about by two travelling choral groups, the Tirolean family Rainer from Fügen and the Strasser siblings from Hippach. They sang a repertoire of Austrian songs in many cities around the world such as New York and St. Petersburg, enthralling audiences far and wide with their traditional folk music.

The story begins in the year 1824 with Carl Mauracher from Fügen. He spent a whole year building a new organ in the church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf near Salzburg and it was there that he discovered the musical notes of Silent Night. When he finished his assignment, he took them home with him to Zillertal in Tirol. The song was well-liked and from then on was always sung during Christmas festivities.

The first Silent Night singers: the Strasser siblings

Christmas tree in the snow © Österreich Werbung /  DiejunChristmas tree in the snow © Österreich Werbung / Diejun

The Strasser siblings were the first known group to perform the song. They originally came from Laimach near Hippach, where Lorenz Strasser lived with his children. The “Strasser House” (Strasser-Häusl) has been well preserved till today.

Strasser was a travelling salesman and in the winter months worked and lived with his musical family in different German markets. Dressed in traditional attire, they sang Tirolean “national” songs to draw attention to their wares. They first sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” in 1831 on a Christmas market in Leipzig.

After they earned themselves popularity there, they travelled around Germany as a singing group, inspiring others with their performance of the Christmas song. From 1835 onwards they no longer performed in public. The song, however, continued its journey around the world!

A success story: The “Ur-Rainer” singers

Ludwig Rainer from Fügen was another local from Zillertal who in 1839, made his way out into the world spreading traditional folk music. Only 18 years old at the time, he already travelled around America with his quartet, “the Rainer Family.” 

 Born in 1821, he was a member of the famous Rainer singing family. From 1824 to 1839 the first generation of family members (the “Ur-Rainer”) together performed as very successful travelling singers. It all started when the “Ur-Rainer” singers sang for Emperor Franz I of Austria and Tsar Alexander I of Russia in the castle Schloss Fügen. Impressed with their talent, the tsar invited them to St. Petersburg.

Although they never actually went to Russia, a referral enabled the Rainer siblings to perform at various other European royal courts, entertaining princes and kings. The family even sang in England at the crowning ceremony of the future Queen Victoria in 1938. They performed in public for the very last time in 1839.

The legacy lives on with Ludwig Rainer 

Ludwig Rainer wanted to continue the family legacy of success from the first generation of his family. To achieve this, the group was even cast professionally.

In 1839 they began their American tour which lasted till 1843, and took them from Boston to New York, then on to St. Louis and Philadelphia. It is believed that they sang Silent Night in public for the very first time on Christmas eve of 1839.

After the successful concert tour, Ludwig Rainer continued travelling through Europe as a Tirolean “national” singer. He performed with numerous groups in Paris, northern Germany, Turkey and in St. Petersburg. After the tour, he returned to Tirol and built the hotel “Seehof” on Lake Achensee. He died in 1893.

Packages and tours 2018 featuring Silent Night

Christmas decorations © Österreich Werbung / Lisa EiersebnerChristmas decorations © Österreich Werbung / Lisa Eiersebner

Feel the true spirit of “Silent Night, Holy Night” in very many different ways in 13 Silent Night localities. Museums and exhibitions are open all year round.

Tours and round trips

4-day tour through Salzburg

2-day tour through Zillertal

3-day tour Innviertel-Steyr

Round trip through the Silent Night provinces


Singing families from Zillertal spread the song around the world

Image copyrights

The main purpose of the two main domains and is the promotion of Austria as a holiday destination.