Blog Caroling 2017 – O Holy Night


It is time once again for Blog Caroling.  LindaRae Palmer, aka the footnote Maven, is hosting her yearly tradition of Blog CarolingBlog Caroling is simply “posting the lyrics, youtube video, etc. of your favorite Christmas carol on your blog.”  I last participated in 2010. Wow, hard to believe it was that long ago. Here is my 2017 entry



O Holy Night – Beautiful Carol With A Fascinating History

Written for a Catholic Priest, set to music by a Jewish man, banned in France, brought to America by an abolitionist, loved by soldiers during the Civil War, and the first song to be broadcast over radio waves, “O Holy Night” has an O So Fascinating history.

A Poem  is Written

In 1847 Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, a poet and wine commissionaire in France was asked by his local priest to write a poem to be read at the Christmas Mass. Drawing from the story in Luke of the birth of Jesus, he wrote “Cantique de Noel.”

Hearing it recited,  Cappeau felt the poem should be more than a poem, it begged to have music and sung as a carol. Chappeau approached his friend Adolph Charles Adams, a Jewish composer best known for his opera “Giselle,”  to set the poem to music.

The carol “Cantique de Noel” was popular for years in the French Catholic churches, until Cappeau left the church to join the Socialists Party and further investigation found the Adams, the composer, was Jewish. Despite the Church ban,  French people continued to sing the carol.

In the early 1860s abolitionist, former Unitarian Minister, and publisher of music books, John Sullivan Dwight, brought the song to America and supplied the English translation that we are familiar with today.

The third verse especially resounded with Dwight as an abolitionist,  “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease.”  Published in ‘Dwight’s Journal of Music,’ the English translation spread quickly throughout The United States, and was sung often in the North.

The First Song on the Radio

In 1906, “Oh Holy Night” became the first song transmitted over long distance radio waves by Reginald Fessenden, former employee of Tomas Edison. He read into a microphone attached to a new type of generator, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” As he continued to read from the gospel of Luke, those that had access to radio equipment on ships and in newsrooms sat spellbound as a man’s voice came through instead of coded impulses. After he completed the gospel reading, Fessenden played “O Holy Night” on his violin, making it the first song ever broadcast over radio waves.

Written by a small town official in France in 1847, set to music by a Jewish Composer, banned by French Officials, translated by an American abolitionist, transmitted via radio waves, and song by millions, “O Holy Night” is today a holiday favorite of many people around the world.
The song was introduced to America after John Brown’s death, but I think he would have loved the song.

The Words

1. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

2. Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;

He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

3. Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!


Written for 2017 Blog Caroling by footnoteMaven – click here to ready other blogs in the Caroling Party



The Amazing Story of “O Holy Night


Hymns and Carols of Christmas


8 thoughts on “Blog Caroling 2017 – O Holy Night

  1. What an interesting story this carol has. It is amazing what you find when you did a little – as all us genealogists know so well! I just listened to the Kings College AND the Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew versions of “O Holy Night” and it is indeed a very lovely carol.

    • says:

      Ruth, thank you for visiting my blog. Yes I think that O Holy Night is on of the prettiest carols.

  2. That IS indeed a fascinating history. I never think about carols having a “history,” but this one for sure is making me wonder about others.

    • says:

      Wendy. Thank you for stopping by. Hope that you enjoyed by blog. As a genealogist doing research I often get distracted by BSO (bright shinny objects) that lead me down wonderful, interesting, and non genealogy rabbit holes. I keep a list so I can go back later and do more research. This was a BSO from a few years ago.

    • says:

      Liz, Thank you for visiting my blog. I am happy you enjoyed the history of this beautiful carol.

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