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The Silent Night

OBERNDORF, Austria --- Each year, on December 24, a special passenger train pulled by a bright red electric locomotive heads out of the train station in Salzburg for a half hour trip to the village of Oberndorf. A multitude of languages can be heard as passengers from all over the globe become Christmas pilgrims, heading for the birthplace of the world's best loved Christmas carol "Silent Night."

At the same time, the Oberndorf streets are crowded with cars bearing license plates from neighboring European Churches can be seen across the nations and filled with people who have raced along the autobahns to arrive in time for the special Christmas Eve "Silent Night" twilight service.

Throughout the world, "Silent Night" which has been translated into more than 200 languages, is an anchor for Christmas celebrations. Its lullaby-like melody and simple message of heavenly peace can be heard from small town street corners in mid-America to magnificent cathedrals in Europe and from outdoor candlelight concerts in Australia to palm thatched huts in northern Peru. The original church of St. Nicholas where "Silent Night" was first heard in 1818 was torn down in the early part of this century after sustaining damage from the flooding of the nearby Salzach River. The Silent Night Chapel was erected on the spot in front of the main altar where Gruber and Mohr stood with the choir to sing the six-stanza carol. In a higher section of town, another church was built and the original pulpit and altars from the old church were moved there. At Christmas Midnight Mass, singers stand in front of the same altars and recreate the moment when the song heard 'round the world was first performed.

Research by Bill Egan, Christmas Historian

 
   


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