Although their titles may sound very similar, the carols ‘Silent Night‘ and ‘O Holy Night‘ are different songs entirely. In fact, they didn’t even originate from the same country and were originally written in two different languages.
The German lyrics for ‘Silent Night’ were written in 1816 by Father Joseph Mohr in the Austrian city of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, while the music was composed on Christmas Eve in 1818 by Mohr’s friend Franz Xaver Gruber. It was first performed on Christmas Day 1818.
There is one similarity between the two songs, but it’s rather tenuous, so bear with us. Both carols were influenced by the humble church organ – albeit a broken one in the case of ‘Silent Night’. On Christmas Eve, Mohr returned home to find mice had caused damage to the church’s organ. Facing a Christmas Day service without music he asked his friend Gruber for help and ‘Silent Night’ was the result. It was sung at the end of the service with the help of a guitar.
‘O Holy Night’ was written by Cappeau after he was begged by the parish priest to celebrate a reconditioned organ in his home town of Roquemaure.
Today these very popular Christmas carols often vie for the top spot on most favourite Christmas carol lists.