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Frohe Weihnachten! – Silent Night, O Christmas Tree, and Still, Still, Still

The Stories of Three German Christmas Songs

Frost on Window
"Jack Frost" Visited Us Here in Geneva This Week

Nothing evokes the feeling of Christmas to us like sipping hot chocolate on a crisp afternoon while snow falls. The last few rays of sunlight glisten and sparkle on the frozen limbs of evergreens and on “Jack Frost” leaves kaleidoscope patterns on our windows. We hang stockings on our mantles, or perhaps, if we don’t have a fireplace, on bannisters or doorknobs. The says leading up to Christmas we open up the miniature doors of our Advent calendar’s to discover chocolates, tiny toys, or even, or other treats as we count the days from December 1 to 25. Then we bring in the outdoor ever-greenery into our homes by hanging garlands, making floral arrangements, and decorating Christmas trees. All of these traditions, amazing part of a tropical “American” Christmas, however, many of these traditions, originate in the German-speaking Europe.

The Germans love Christmas decorations and celebrations. They mark the occasion with Christmas markets in many cities, like the one I recently attended in Chicago called the “Christkindlmarket,” A typical Christmas market [der Weihnachtsmarkt] features German food, drink, and many artisan-crafted gifts including carved wooden decor, hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments, knit goods, and more. No matter where you’re from in the world if you’re from a Christmas, celebrating area, nothing can usher in the Christmas spirit quite as quickly as Christmas carols any of our popular carols, just like Advent calendars, stockings, and Christmas trees, originate in Germany, and some traditional German-language songs have become traditional in many other lands, including in English-speaking countries like here in the United States, including one one of our most beloved, “Silent Night” [German title: “Stille Nacht”].

Christmas Market in Germany
Christmas Market in Germany

German-language Christmas music has a long history with many different styles and traditions. Singing Christmas songs has been a part of culture of German-speaking countries since at least as the sixteenth century. Some popular tunes, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” [German title: O Komm, O Komm Emmanuel] or “O Come All Ye Faithful.” [German title: Herbei, o ihr Gläubigen] originated with the Latin chants from the early Middle Ages such as “Veni, veni, Emmanueland “Adeste Fideles” repsectively. Others may even have originated as folk songs like “O Christmas Tree” [German title: “O Tannenbaum”]. In today’s post, we are going to look into the history of three of the most popular German Christmas carols, "O Tannenbaum," "Stille Nacht," and “Still, Still, Still”.