[FOUNTAIN]Silent night, holy nightIt was Christmas Eve of 1818. A disaster occurred in the small Saint Nicholas Church in a town named Oberndorf, in Austria. The organ, an essential instrument in praising the birth of baby Jesus, was broken. There wasn’t even a repair man in the town. The congregation would have to spend Christmas without hymns or music.
Father Josef Mohr thought this a horrible thing. Thinking of numerous ways to overcome the crisis, he had the idea of using a guitar instead of the organ. He thought it would be nice to add melody to a song he wrote two years earlier and play the music on a guitar.
Father Mohr ran to the choir conductor Franz Gruber and asked him to write the music. Franz Gruber composed the tune in just three hours after getting great inspiration from the poem Father Mohr had written. This is how the famous Christmas carol “Silent Night, Holy Night,” sung and listened to by people all over the world at holiday time, was created.
Another incident happened on the western front in the Flanders region in Belgium in 1914 during World War I. When Christmas Eve arrived, there hadn’t been a single day that shooting between the German army and the allied forces stopped. As darkness came, “Silent Night, Holy Night” was heard from the German dugout. Then a German soldier came out of the dugout. Holding a Christmas tree decorated in shining candles, he went closer to the British camp and shouted, “Merry Christmas.”
Seeing this, the British troops put down their guns and returned Christmas greetings. Peace came for a while in what was known as “No Man’s Land.” In the field, soldiers were singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” in unison. Others were collecting the bodies of their foes and fellow soldiers. When Christmas was over, the battle continued under the orders of their commanders. However, the miraculous peace of Christmas Eve was treasured within the hearts of the soldiers. U.S. singer Garth Brooks’ song “Belleau Wood” tells this story and relates that “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds” but can also be found on the battlefield.
The streets are full of Christmas spirit. Wherever you go, it is peaceful. What would the situation on the front line be? Would it be possible for the troops of South and North Korea in the Demilitarized Zone to exchange greetings of “Merry Christmas?” Even if it were just over loud speakers, it would be nice. If it could give rest and peace to the soldiers through this one phrase, it would be enough. Wouldn’t it be nice if the nights in the Demilitarized Zone were always silent and holy?
by Lee Sang-il
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.