Salzburg: Silent Night 200th Year Anniversary

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Silent Night Begins…

We timed our visit to Salzburg to the days leading up to Christmas – the Advent.  That was mainly because we wanted to be part of the city as it prepares for and celebrates the 200th year anniversary of the most beloved Christmas carol, ‘Silent Night‘.  It is also our family’s favourite carol.

‘Stille Nacht’ (original German title) was written by a young priest from Salzburg named Josef Mohr (1792-1848).   He wrote the poem in 1816 when he was an assistant priest in Mariapfarr, a town 135 kilometres south of Salzburg.  Mohr, who was also a choir singer and a guitar player, eventually moved to Oberndorf, a small town north of Salzburg.  There he became friends with Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863), the church organist at Oberndorf and a teacher in Arnsdorf, a nearby town.

On the afternoon of December 24, Christmas Eve of 1818, Mohr approached Gruber to compose a melody for his poem.  He wanted to offer to the people of Oberndorf a carol that would be sung after the Christmas mass that evening.  Gruber was a genius and completed the melody quickly.  And so 200 years ago, on December 24, 1818, Stille Nacht was first performed, sang by these two friends and accompanied by Mohr on his guitar…

In my next post, I will share our wonderful experience at Oberndorf and try my best to tell more stories behind Silent Night – stories of hope and peace…

Meanwhile, here are some of the pictures at the Silent Night 200 exhibit in Salzburg Museum.   Our Silent Night ‘pilgrimage’ began here.   We spent the rest of the morning at the exhibit after visiting Salzburg Cathedral next door.  In the museum shop, we bought a couple of souvenirs including a wind-up music box of Silent Night that my husband was so fond of. 🙂

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Salzburg Museum, one of the venues of the Silent Night 200 exhibit
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On the way to the exhibit
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This was where our search for the story behind ‘Silent Night’ began, at the Salzburg Museum
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Advent is a wonderful season of hope, love and peace.  It is that time in December when Christians await, prepare for and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
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Silent Night was traditionally performed on December 24, not before, not after.
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The song has been translated into 300 languages and dialects. 300 – that’s more countries than members of the United Nations!
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This fortepiano was owned by Franz Gruber and was sold by his daughter to the Salzburg Museum in 1897.  He had 12 children by the way but only 4 reached adulthood.
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The exhibit was interactive.  My kids enjoyed listening to the different versions of the song. Our little one also spent time making origami of envelopes and doves.
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Some interesting collection
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This is when you start humming…
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or singing… 🙂

Here are the other blogs on our Bavaria and Austria Holiday:

  1. Munich: Start of our family’s tales from last winter
  2. Munich: Viktualienmarkt Biergarten
  3. Munich: BMW Museum and BMW Welt
  4. Munich: Theatine Church and Odeonplatz
  5. Munich: Christmas Markets
  6. Munich: Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall
  7. Munich: City Aparthotel München
  8. Salzburg: Birthplace of Mozart and Silent Night
  9. Salzburg: Hohensalzburg Fortress 
  10. Salzburg: Residenzplatz Christmas Market
  11. Salzburg: Salzburg Cathedral

36 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing your post on Oberndorf! Being in a place where “Stille Nacht” was performed live for the first time was a thrill, but being there during Christmas has to be special, and to be there on *Christmas Eve* has to be extra special. Neverthless, being in Salzburg and in the area for Christmas had to feel like a bit of magic, especially with snow on the ground, lights all around, and a chill in the air.

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    1. Hello there my favourite writer, yes do consider Salzburg. It’s probably not as glittery as your Paris last year, definitely not like our Disney California Christmas a few years back, but I loved our time in Salzburg a lot. It’s simple there, humbling, solemn and Christmassy in an old fashion, my-kind of way. After a quiet Advent in Salzburg, we headed to Vienna for a loud, NYE party! 🙂

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      1. That is such a heartwarming thing to hear.

        You know anything old-fashioned and I am sold. Paris does have polish, you are right. I will miss it this winter. Disney California sounds like a hoot of a Christmas. The beauty of travelling is going to places with different vibes, or it would be a big bore, no?

        A Salzburg Advent and then an afterparty in Vienna. Heaven! I will take it in a heartbeat.:-)

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        1. I agree with you and I do felt privileged that I got to see how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world. Do you know where I hope to see Christmas one day? In England. I heard it’s lovely at Hyde Park as well. Do you happen to have an old post about Christmas in England? I’d love to read it. 🙂

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          1. Hey Amor, I apologise for the slowest of all responses. I have been working on my writing project and as a result blogging is getting ignored. Well, a thousand apologies apart, I do not think I have done a post on Christmas itself in the UK. I wonder why because those were some of my most cherished times. I will see if I can do one!
            And if you do go, you will love it (but be warned, it is not OTT). 🙂

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            1. It’s nice to hear that you’re working on a project! I had to look up for ‘OTT’ hahaha! I knew I heard my kid saying that word before and I also asked him what it meant but I kinda forgotten already. Oh your Christmas posts are always something to look forward too. I remember I loved your NY Christmas posts from 2 years back, and if I remember it right, you have one in Eastern Europe as well?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Hahaha, I suck at acronyms. Just a few stick. 😉

                Yes, I do have one on Budapest, Florence, a bit in Rome, Prague and unwritten ones in my head from France and the UK. Christmas is such a warm feeling. I am already excited about it. Or is it too early? 😛

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    1. It does sound so solemn and authentic in German! I got to listen to it twice that day. I could only find Irish Gaelic versions (is that the same as Scot Gaelic?) in YouTube and wow thank you so very much for mentioning about this. I will surely put this now in our Christmas playlist! 🙂

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