The most popular Christmas carol of all time, 'Silent Night! Holy Night!' (originally called 'Christmas Song') was first sung before a congregation in 1818 in St. Nikola's Church located in Oberndorf, Austria. St. Nikola's Church had since been washed away by the 1899 flood of the Salzach River. "In a panic" that there may not be any music at the midnight mass, Josef Mohr set to write special music for the Christmas Eve service on December 23. He did not finish writing the song until 4 o'clock in the morning.

His inspiration came on one Alpine night before Christmas when Josef Mohr was returning from a late pastoral visit. As he walked through the wind and snow-swept streets outside of town, Josef stopped on the mountainside beneath the bright northern hemisphere winter stars and moon. As he stood alone, the thought came to him, words began flashing through his mind, "Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright."

After he had written the verses, Josef Mohr then gave Franz Gruber a copy of the words and told him, "I have written the words for a little Christmas song. Can you write a melody for 2 solo voices and choir? Don't bother with the organ. I have thought of a guitar to accompany it." The song was originally played on a guitar because "Gruber discovered that mice had eaten the bellows of the organ so badly that the instrument was out of commission."

Franz Gruber took 3½ hours to compose the melody for the hymn. It was noted, "Fate could hardly have conspired to bring together 2 more unlikely collaborators on the Christmas hit of all time." By the 20th century, 'Silent Night! Holy Night!' could be heard in some 44 languages "in hundreds of countries and thousands of cities and towns throughout the world." Jay Clarke of 'Knight News Tribune' remarked, "The world would not have known of 'Silent Night' were it not for the visit of an organ builder to Oberndorf in 1824. Karl Mauracher came to the church to replace the old organ, heard the song and took a copy of it back to Zittertal. There, he passed it on to the Strasser family who incorporated it into their repertoite of Tyrolean songs." 'Silent Night! Holy Night!' did not appear in print until after 1831 when A.R. Friese published the book 'Four Authentic Tirolean Songs.' Franz Gruber told Josef Mohr, "Your words sang themselves."

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