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Did you know? Fun Facts about “Silent Night”

“Silent Night” is one of the most famous Christmas carols in the world. And yet, there are a few interesting things you might not know about it yet... Find out now!

The tales surrounding “Silent Night” have quite some real-life suspense to offer. The following stories really happened – 200 years ago...

Facts about "Silent Night" writer Joseph Mohr: Did you know that ... ?

  • ... when he died, Joseph Mohr’s sole possession was a – very special – guitar?
    Mohr gave away all his possessions to the poor and owned only the guitar he used to play “Silent Night” in 1818.

  • ... Joseph Mohr was often in conflict with the authorities?
    While helping others - his main goal in life - he sometimes stepped out of line.

  • ... Joseph Mohr’s godfather was Salzburg’s last official executioner?
    He had signed up to act as a godfather to illegitimate children to improve his reputation.

  • ... the words to “Silent Night” were originally written as a poem in 1816?
    For a long time, it was believed that the words had been written for the 1818 Christmas Eve mass.

  • Grave of Joseph Mohr in Hallein © SalzburgerLand Tourismus / Kathrin Gollackner Grave of Joseph Mohr in Hallein © SalzburgerLand Tourismus / Kathrin Gollackner

Did you know that ...


... “Silent Night” was sung in the trenches of World War I?
Right after the beginning of the war in 1914, an amazing spectacle took place: a temporary Christmas truce. On 24 December, soldiers placed illuminated Christmas trees on the upper edges of the trenches as a sign of peace. Fighters then laid down their weapons and sang “Silent Night” on both sides of the front.

...“Silent Night” became a hit early on in the US?
In the mid-19th century, “Silent Night” became the top-selling piece of sheet music in the US. Since its very first vinyl recording by the American “Haydn Quartet” in October 1905, it has been the best-selling Christmas carol in the world by far. Bing Crosby’s recording from 1935 alone had sold an estimated 10 million copies by 2003.

... the period in which the song was composed was one of hardship and war?
By Christmas of 1818, Europe had been in crisis for decades. Political changes, war and hunger had drained the people of Salzburg, the Habsburg Monarchy and Bavaria. Napoleon had devastated entire regions. The Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 brought about the end of the Napoleonic era.

... writer Joseph Mohr and composer Franz Xaver Gruber only knew each other briefly?
In 1817, Joseph Mohr came to Oberndorf as an assistant priest. He became friends with Franz Xaver Gruber, five years his senior and a teacher in the neighbouring village of Arnsdorf. The following Christmas, Mohr asked his friend to compose a suitable melody for one of his poems. After the Christmas mass in 1818, the song “Silent Night” was performed for the very first time.

  • Spurensuche zu Fuss © Franz Xaver Gruber Gemeinschaft  / Franz Xaver Gruber Gemeinschaft Spurensuche zu Fuss © Franz Xaver Gruber Gemeinschaft / Franz Xaver Gruber Gemeinschaft

Facts about "Silent Night" composer Franz Xaver Gruber: Did you know that ... ?

  • ... Franz X. Gruber was married 3 times?
    He first married the widow of his predecessor as a teacher in Arnsdorf; after her death, he married Maria Breitfuss with whom he had ten children. His third marriage was to the widow of a shoemaker.

  • ... Franz Xaver Gruber took credit for “Silent Night” whilst he was still alive?
    Gruber cleared up a misconception about the composer's identity in his so-called "Authentic Account of the Origins of 'Silent Night'"

  • ... Franz Xaver Gruber worked as a linen weaver?
    He was forced to take over his parents’ business. His loom is now on display in the Franz Xaver Gruber Memorial House in Upper Austria.

Silent Night Packages and Tours

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

Feel the “Silent Night” spirit in Austria’s 13 Silent Night localities. Museums and exhibitions are open year-round.

4-day tour Salzburg & SalzburgerLand

2-day tour Zillertal Valley in Tirol

3-day tour Innviertel-Steyr in Upper Austria

Round trip through the Silent Night provinces

More about Silent Night

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Did you know? Fun Facts about “Silent Night”

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