Byron's Babbles

Silent Nights of Peace

Posted in Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Christmas, Silent Night, Wally Bronner by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2021

Most people don’t remember the first time they heard or sang Silent Night. We just know it has always been a part of our Christmas music selection list. My wife and I actually had my Aunt Virginia (professional organist) play Silent Night at our wedding 36 years ago this past December 21st. It wasn’t until I went to the Silent Night Chapel at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland a couple of weeks ago that I began to take a deep dive into understanding the significance of the most widely known Christmas Carol of all time. Bronner’s Silent Night Chapel is an exact 1:1 replica of the original chapel in Oberndorf/Salzburg, Austria, which marks the site where Silent Night was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818.

After the Napoleonic wars had taken their toll in 1816, a young priest in Austria, Joseph Mohr, took a walk and was overwhelmed by all the stars in the sky and the quietness of a city finally at peace. He went back and wrote the words. Then, on Christmas Eve, 1818, the now-famous carol was first performed as Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht. Joseph Mohr, the young priest who wrote the lyrics, played the guitar and sang along with Franz Xaver Gruber, the choir director who had written the melody.

Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel

So why is the a replica of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel significant? Dedicated in 1937, the Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria, was built on the alter site of the original St. Nicholas Church. During a visit to the site, Wally Bronner was inspired to build an exact replica on the south end of his store’s 27 acre complex near the south entrance to Frankenmuth, Michigan. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walk in the replica chapel every year. Just as this visit inspired me to understand even more deeply the meaning of the words of Silent Night, I am sure every person entering that chapel finds some inspiration or peace.

So why was it important for me to take a deep dive into Silent Night and come to a place of understanding of the inspiration for Mohr to write these immortal lyrics? Today, Silent Night is perhaps the most famous Christmas carol in history. It has been translated into most languages, and the Bing Crosby version is the third-bestselling single in history. It took the cultural landmark at Bronner’s CHRISTMAS Wonderland to trigger my learning. The song itself was even declared to be an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

May we have peace on earth and our nights be starlit, blessed, and silent.