Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blog Caroling ~ "Oh Holy Night"

The creche at Ste. Marie's parish
in Manchester, New Hampshire

For the past six years I have participated in Footnote Maven's blog caroling event.  I've enjoyed researching the local history, and sometimes a little genealogy, behind each Christmas carol.  Usually the songs I choose have New England connections, but this time I chose a French carol.

When I was in high school we always sang carols in French class. It was a fun way to learn new vocabulary and pronunciation.  "O Holy Night", or rather "Cantique de Noel", was my favorite.   Last week I heard this song sung in English on a PBS TV special, sung by a choir of adorable little Irish boys.  There was a verse I hadn't heard in years, and it made me think of my abolitionist ancestors from Boston and Salem, Massachusetts.

Upon researching this song, I learned that an American pastor and abolitionist named John S. Dwight did the original translation of this song from French into English.  Verse 3 was his political statement, which made the song popular in the North during the Civil War.  He was born in Boston, graduated Harvard, and became a Unitarian minister in 1840.   Dwight's 1855 translation, as well as Phillips Brooks' song "O Little Town of Bethlehem" are both Christmas carols written by Boston abolitionists in the midst of that same war.

O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary sould rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

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

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by this 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 ur trials born to be our friend.

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.

Other blog caroling entries over the years:

2009 "Christmas in Boston"

2010  "Jingle Bells"

2011 "The Holly and the Ivy"
2012 "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

2013  "Si Me Dan Pasteles"

2014  "Over the River and Through the Woods"


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Blog Caroling ~  "Oh Holy Night", Nutfield Genealogy, posted December 21, 2016, ( accessed [access date]).

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