Learn the German Translation for Silent Night, “Stille Nacht”

“Silent Night” Was Originally Composed in German

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Ingrid Bauer
Updated November 10, 2017

The popular Christmas carol ” Silent Night ” has been translated into several languages worldwide ( like French ), but it was originally written in German under the title “Stille Nacht.” It was just a poem before it was transformed into a song one Christmas night in Austria. If you already know the English version, try memorizing the German lyrics for three of the most common verses.

The Story of “Stille Nacht”

It was December 24th,1818, in a small Austrian village called Oberndorf.

Just hours before Christmas mass, pastor Joseph Mohr of St. Nicholas Kirche found himself in a bind. His musical plans for the evening church service were ruined because the organ had recently broken after a nearby river flooded. What could he do?

In a moment of inspiration, Mohr grabbed a Christmas poem he had written two years earlier. He quickly set off to a neighboring village where his friend Franz Gruber, the church organist, lived. It is believed that in just a few short hours that night, Gruber was able to produce the first version of the world-renowned Christmas hymn “Stille Nacht,” written as a guitar accompaniment. 

The Modern “Stille Nacht”

The song that we sing today is slightly different from the original version of “Stille Nacht.” It is believed that folk singers and choir groups altered the original melody slightly as they performed the carol throughout Europe in the ensuing decades.

The English version we know today was written by the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young. However, the standard English version contains just three verses, whereas the German version contains six. Only verses one, six, and two from the original Joseph Mohr version are sung in English.

There is an interesting binaural version of this song as well.

You will hear the English text in your left ear and simultaneously the German text in your right ear. Get your headphones and give it a minute to get used to this new approach.

There is also a version sung by Nina Hagen , an opera prodigy, rather known as the mother of punk. But fear not, it is actually sweet to listen to.

“Stille Nacht” in German

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund, 

Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816
Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818

“Silent Night” in English

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth