Christmas Fact 18

German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

18. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

German and Austrian Christmas Carols


Book: Unsere Advents- und Weihnachtslieder: Geschichte und Geschichten (Deutsch) gebundene Ausgabe (Herder, 2015) by Guido Fuchs

Almost five centuries after the Protestant Reformation, Germany’s Christians are about evenly divided between Catholics (Katholiken) and Protestants (Evangelische). The great reformer (Reformator), Martin Luther himself, translated many of the traditional Latin hymns and carols used in the Catholic mass into German. His first Protestant hymnal was published in 1524.

As time went by, both Catholics and Protestants created hymns designed to be sung for special occasions, including Christmas. Most German Christmas carols (Weihnachtslieder) fall into one of three categories: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. In more recent times, secular, non-religious carols about Christmas trees, snow, snowmen, Santa (der Weihnachtsmann), reindeer, and gifts have become popular, especially for children.

The world’s most popular, most famous Christmas carol of all time was written in Austria. “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) was written by Joseph Mohr with music by Franz Gruber. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818, but was almost lost to the world after that. Upon its rediscovery, it spread around the globe and has been translated from German into many other languages. For more about the history of “Stille Nacht,” see Austria’s “Silent Night”.

Das Lutherjahr 2017
500 years ago, in 1517, legend has it that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus starting the Protestant Reformation. 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of that revolutionary act. See Unhaunted Graves: Halloween, Reformation Day, “Luther Year” and Totensonntag for more.

95 Theses

Today the doors the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg are metal replicas of Luther’s 95 Theses. The original doors were destroyed in a fire in the 18th century. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

CAROLS > German and Austrian Christmas Carols – Popular carols with lyrics in German and English


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