The Origins of O Holy Night O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It’s not easy to sing, but it’s beautiful to listen to (when the soloist can hit those high notes). I recently heard the story of its origins and thought I’d share it here on my blog in hopes you find it as interesting as I do. In 1843, in the small French town of Roquemaure, the church organ had been recently renovated. Wanting to celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau to compose a poem for the Christmas service. Cappeau was better known for his poetry that he was for his church attendance, but he agreed to the request and went to work. Inspired by the story of Christ’s birth recorded in Luke 2, Cappeau penned the words to O Holy Night and loved how the poem turned out. Cappeau, however, was a poet, not a composer, so he asked his friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to compose a melody for the poem. (I’ve gathered information for this blog from several sources, so if you discover from another source that the two men weren’t really friends, please forgive my naivety in believing everything I read.) Opera singer Emily Laurey premiered the song in Roquemaure on Christmas Eve 1847. Why it didn’t premiere until four years after it was penned, I can’t explain. The interesting thing about Adams is that he was a Jew. The song became very popular in France and was included in many Christmas Eve services. However, when Placide Cappeau left the church completely to join the socialist movement, and it was discovered that Adams was a Jew, O Holy Night was banned by French churches for its “lack of musical taste” and “total absence of the spirit of religion.” By the time it was banned, though, it was too late. The French loved O Holy Night so much they would secretly sing it in their homes. Legend has it that in 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier stood up from his trench, unarmed, and sang O Holy Night to the bafflement of the German soldiers. The Germans responded with their own Christmas carol, which halted the fighting for the next 24 hours. I recently explained to my grandson that when something is called a “legend” it may or may not be true. (We were discussing the legend of Kraken the sea monster at the time.) Personally, I think the legend of the cease fire during the Franco-Prussian war is far more likely to be true than the legend of Kraken (despite the supposed recent sightings of the aforementioned sea monster). The part of this story that baffles and saddens me, is how Cappeau left the church after so eloquently telling the story of Christ’s birth in song. How could you help but fall on your knees once you read about the wonder of Jesus’ entry into the world? When I sing O Holy Night and get to the part proclaiming, “Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices,” I practically weep with gratitude for the wonder of it all. I hope your heart is filled with the wonder of Christ’s coming as you celebrate His birth this year.