This year marks the 200th anniversary since 'Silent Night' was first sung in a church.

It’s a scene that first played out 200 years ago. In the stillness at the end of the Christmas Eve service, “Silent Night” was sung.

But the beloved carol did not start out as a song. It began in 1816 as a six-stanza poem written by Joseph Mohr to counter the horrors surrounding him.

The Napoleonic War was ending. In 1815, a volcanic eruption triggered climate changes across Europe. It was a summer filled with rain and even snow, destroying crops.

Europe had been through decades of trauma, both man-made and natural disasters.

And in 1818, fire destroyed many buildings in Salzburg, Austria, causing people to lose their livelihoods. Among them was Franz Xaver Gruber, whose farming family had turned to weaving to get through the hard times. Many families were sending their children to other countries to find work.

In the turmoil, a treaty split the Salzburg area, leaving the town of Oberndorf with no cemetery or school and divided from its previous legal system. Many people couldn’t afford to eat or pay debts.

Mohr, then an assistant priest in Oberndorf, handed his poem to Gruber on Christmas Eve and asked him to add a melody. That evening it is performed near the end of Christmas Mass with two voices and a guitar.

The guitar, the story goes, was used because mice had eaten through part of the organ. Whether or not that's true, the organ was not working well. But some also speculate that the men were looking for simplicity and had decided to avoid the organ.

The song struck deeply with people, and it spread as a folk song mainly due to the efforts of the Rainer family singers, a traveling singing group from Austria. In 1822 they sang for visiting Russian officials. Then in 1824, the singers traveled to Germany, and in 1825, they brought it to England and Sweden

Between 1827 and 1832, the song was published in a book.

Other groups begin singing "Silent Night," and it was published as sheet music.

In 1839, the second generation of Rainer singers sang the song at Trinity Church in New York. The singers worked their way to New Orleans, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia over the next several years.

The song continued to grow in popularity but wasn’t attributed properly until 1854. Handwritten copies from Mohr and Gruber are on display in Salzburg museums.

In 1859, “Silent Night” was released in New York as an English translation, part of a brochure titled “Carols for Christmas Tide” by Bishop John Freeman Young.

By the start of the 1900s, “Silent Night” had been sung on all continents.

And it definitely will be sung again this Christmas as it marks 200 years of Christmas Eve peace.

The original six stanzas are:

Silent night! Holy night!

All are sleeping, alone and awake

Only the intimate holy pair,

Lovely boy with curly hair,

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, O how he laughs

Love from your divine mouth,

Then it hits us — the hour of salvation.

Jesus at your birth!

Jesus at your birth!

Silent night! Holy night!

Which brought salvation to the world,

From Heaven’s golden heights,

Mercy’s abundance was made visible to us:

Jesus in human form,

Jesus in human form.

Silent night! Holy night!

Where on this day all power

Of fatherly love poured forth

And like a brother lovingly embraced

Jesus the peoples of the world,

Jesus the peoples of the world.

Silent night! Holy night!

Already long ago planned for us,

When the Lord frees from wrath

Since the beginning of ancient times

A salvation promised for the whole world.

A salvation promised for the whole world.

Silent night! Holy night!

To shepherds it was first made known

By the angel, Alleluia;

Sounding forth loudly far and near:

Jesus the Savior is here!

Jesus the Savior is here!

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Facets of Faith runs every other Saturday in EatPrayLive. Reach Leila Pitchford-English at