Christmas Carols: O Holy Night

John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893)

According to history, in Roquemaure, a small town in southern France, at the end of the year 1843, the parish church organ had been renovated. To celebrate the event, the priest asked town wine merchant and poet Placide Cappeau to write a Christmas poem, even though the latter never showed an interest in religion. Cappeau obliged, titling the poem Minuit, chrétiens — translated: “Midnight, Christians.” Composer Adolphe C. Adam wrote the music, the song titled Cantique de Noël premiering in Roquemaure in 1847, sung by the opera singer Emily Laurey.

Nearly ten years later, in 1855, Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of a publication called Dwight’s Journal of Music, created a singing version. Based on Cappeau’s poem rather than a direct translation, the lyric are quite different, while maintaining the theme of Jesus’ birth and the redemption of humanity. Over the years slightly differing versions have been penned and recorded, however, the most popular version remains the one by Dwight, as noted below.

On Christmas Eve in 1906, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden broadcast the first ever AM radio program and he played “O Holy Night” on the violin, making the popular carol the first piece of music to be broadcast on the radio.

O Holy Night

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, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the 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! Before him lowly bend!

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! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

There are many videos of this amazing song, but my favorite rendition, hand’s down, is by Josh Groban. I get goosebumps and chills every time! The first is a live version that is, unfortunately, a bit fuzzy. The second is fan made using clips from the astounding movie The Nativity Story. Watch either, or both, but turn the music up, close your eyes, and let the words wash over you.

Okay, I love Josh, but this version also gave me goosebumps and chills!

Giving the female singers a chance, here are Carrie Underwood and the incomparable Celine Dion.



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
%d bloggers like this: