“O du fröhliche”


A German Christmas Carol in German and English

Music: Traditional Sicilian folk tune (1803)
Lyrics: Johannes Daniel Falk (1768–1826) and Heinrich Holzschuher (1798–1847)

“O du fröhliche” actually did not start out as a Christmas carol. First published in 1816, it was originally titled “Allerdreifeiertagslied,” or “A Song for Three Holidays,” dedicated to the three major festivals of Christianity: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Only later, after Falk’s death, was it adapted by Heinrich Holzschuher as a carol by adding two more verses. Today it is a very popular German Christmas carol, usually sung during the last two Advent weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. In Protestant churches in Germany, the carol is traditionally sung at the end of Christmas Eve services.

Learn more about this carol below.

Music: 'O du froehliche'

This 1962 edition of a Hessian Protestant (Evangelisch) hymnal credits the lyrics to both Falk and Holzschuher. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Also see a video version of this carol below.

DEUTSCH
Text: J.D. Falk, H. Holzschuher
ENGLISH
Literal English translation – HF
O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
O you joyful, O you blessed,
grace-bringing Christmas time!
The world was lost, Christ is born:
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christendom!
O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen, uns zu versöhnen:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
O you joyful, O you blessed,
grace-bringing Christmas time!
Christ appeared to atone for us:
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christendom!
O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Himmlische Heere jauchzen Dir Ehre:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
O you joyful, O you blessed,
grace-bringing Christmas time!
Heavenly armies rejoice in your honor:
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christendom!
BACK > German Christmas Carol Lyrics


About This Carol
Johannes Daniel Falk (1768–1826), a German publisher and poet born in Danzig, wrote the original words for “O du fröhliche.” After losing four of his seven children to typhoid fever, Falk founded the Falk’sche Institute, a public education institution for orphans in Weimar. For this song (originally a hymn) he set the one-verse lyrics to the melody of the anonymous hymn “O Sanctissima” (“O Most Holy”), which in turn was based on an old Sicilian fishermen’s song, sometimes referred to as the “Sicilian Mariners Hymn,” which was first published in London in 1792. Shortly after Falk died in Weimar, his former assistant, Heinrich Holzschuher (1798–1847) of Wunsiedel added two more verses to create the carol that is sung today. Besides its use in “O du fröhliche,” you may also recognize the tune in the first half of the American civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”


VIDEO: “O du fröhliche” Eva Lind, 2008 (Pfarrkirche Scheffer)

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