ASSUMPTION, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s hard to imagine Christmastime without singing catchy carols to make our spirits bright. But did you know Assumption has a connection to one of the most famous carols of all time?
History of ‘Silent Night’
On Christmas Eve, 1818 in Oberndorf, Austria, Franz Xaver Gruber discovered his organ to be broken only hours before a scheduled church service. Because of the continuing blizzard outside of St. Nicholas Parish, where he usually played, he couldn’t have it repaired in time.
He immediately asked the priest, Joseph Mohr, if he could write words for a new song that Gruber could set to music quickly on another instrument.
Earlier in the evening, Mohr had visited a fellow parishioner who had just given birth to her first child. Mohr thought about that as he looked over the snow covering Tyolese mountainsides so peacefully that the words to the song came to him almost by magic.
About 1,200 people, Assumption’s population today, gathered together for the service later that evening to witness the premier of the new song called “Silent Night.” Gruber’s wife sang the song during the service as he accompanied her on violin with Mohr looking on.
Connection to Assumption
In 1924, Gruber’s great-grandson Julius Gruber came to St. Louis from Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and in 1929, moved to Assumption. He owned a downtown bakery there for several years before eventually retiring to nearby Hillsboro where he is buried today.
“‘Silent Night’ is one of the most beloved and recognizable holiday songs,” said Joyce Throneburg, president of Assumption Historical Society. “That our little community has a connection to the man who wrote the melody is something we cherish and promote.”
Each year, the historical society displays information about the town’s connection to the Christmas carol in its museum windows. They also spend the holiday season promoting the connection to residents.
Throneburg said Julius enjoyed his later years of life telling the story of his great-grandfather and his contributions to the Christmas tradition. The historical society enjoys telling the story too.