22# Silent Night and the Christmas truce.
This story is probably another chapter in the book of the countless Christmas legend, and another checkbox in our advent calendar!
It was 1914 ,and soldiers on both sides of the battlefield somewhere in France were enduring a dark and frozen Christmas Eve night.
During World War I, the Great War, eventually more than 10 million people died, and it is doubtless that the men of that Christmas Eve were contemplating much more beyond their longings for home and warmth and family.
When soldiers on the German line placed candles on small Christmas trees and raised them above their trenches it touched the hearts of their enemies. These men, thousands of them on both sides, spontaneously began to sing the carols of Christmas, and this became the legendary Christmas truce.
Weapons were put down and men exchanged small gifts after agreeing to a truce so that all could celebrate Christmas.
And so for a short period of time, no shots were fired: the following day, men who only hours before fought fiercely now stood side by side and buried their dead, together and with heads uncovered they held a service to memorialize their fallen comrades.
Before departing for another frozen night in the trenches, a solitary voice began to sing Silent Night, in French. He was joined by another voice, this one singing in German, the words of a hymn known and beloved by all, and together they contemplated heavenly peace.
At the time Silent Night was nearly 100 years old, the Christmas song was known around Europe and was sung in many languages for generations.
Despite this, for years historians have argued about its history. Then books, articles, magazines, news reports and Internet web sites have told lot of stories about Silent Night. In reality, the story of Silent Night is as simple as the song itself.
On Christmas Eve of 1818, in Oberndorf, Austria, Joseph Mohr, who was an assistant pastor, took the words of a poem he had written previously to Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher and talented musician.
Joseph asked his friend to put the lyrics to music so that it could be performed that very night at Midnight Mass.
The result was Silent Night, sung as a duet by Mohr and Gruber, and they were accompanied by the Church choir and a guitar.
So, Silent Night was passed on from person to person as it touched lives: for Christmases to come, the song was performed in families, chorales, and eventually it was performed in capital cities before royalty, and in the nearly 100 years it took to be known of the World War I generation, it had been performed in dozens of languages.
However, there are really countless of legends and stories about Silent Night. It seems that it is born of a broken organ incapable of playing something more grand at that Midnight Mass because mice had eaten through the bellows, or it was an inspiration born of a city fire in Salzburg. The only truth is that the song was the invention of an assistant pastor and his talented friend for a simple celebration of Christmas. And it is used still today: a touching message of peace, a reminder of the best wishes for the season.