The story of one of our most beloved Christmas carols starts in France in 1843 when church clergy in the small town of Roquemaure were looking for a song to celebrate their newly renovated organ. They asked wine merchant and poet if he wouldn’t mind penning some new lyrics. Four years later Cappeau, having traveled to Paris on business, delivered the song with music by Parisian classical composer and it premiered in 1847.

Mariah Carey performing O Holy Night.

Initially the song was warmly accepted by the French Catholic Church, but when church leaders caught word that Cappeau had joined the socialist movement and Adolphe was Jewish, they declared it unfit for services. But even as they tried to bury O Holy Night, its influence expanded, eventually reaching abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight who translated the lyrics into English and brought it to the US. Dwight and Cappeau met in 1906, both very old men, to witness O Holy Night becoming the first song ever broadcast over radio waves.


O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our 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 world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of 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 weaknesses 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.