There are a number of popular Christmas songs that contain the word “night” in the title. Some of the most well-known Christmas tunes with “night” in the title include “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” In this article, we will take a closer look at some of these classic Christmas songs and explore their history and meaning.
Perhaps the most famous Christmas song with “night” in the title is “Silent Night.” This cherished carol was originally written in German in 1818 by Father Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Xaver Gruber. According to legend, the church organ at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria was broken on Christmas Eve, so Mohr asked Gruber to compose a melody that could be played on guitar. The beautiful resulting song was performed that night for Christmas Eve mass. The original German title is “Stille Nacht.”
The lyrics to “Silent Night” poetically depict the calm, holy night when Jesus was born:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
“Silent Night” has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects. It was popularized in America in the mid-19th century and has become one of the most famous and ubiquitous Christmas carols. Its gentle melody and peaceful lyrics beautifully capture the tranquil essence of Christmas Eve.
O Holy Night
“O Holy Night” (“Cantique de Noël” in French) is another extremely popular Christmas song with “night” in the title. The music for this carol was composed in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, with French lyrics written in 1843 by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure. John Sullivan Dwight created the English translation we know today.
The lyrics to “O Holy Night” vividly describe the night of Jesus’s birth:
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
Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
“O Holy Night” is known for its soaring melody and ability to convey the emotion and deeper spiritual meaning of Christmas. Some consider it the most beautiful Christmas carol ever composed. It has been recorded by countless artists over the years, across many musical genres.
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
The Christmas classic “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” includes the word “night” in its famous opening line:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way…
This song was written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé and became an instant hit, being recorded by Nat King Cole and many other major artists. The lyrics create a vivid holiday scene of chestnuts roasting, snow falling, carolers singing, and children eagerly awaiting Santa on Christmas Eve night. It brilliantly captures the cozy warmth and nostalgia of the Christmas season. The reference to not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve night due to excitement over Santa’s imminent arrival is something many children can identify with. This song is a cherished staple that ushers in the Christmas spirit for many around the world.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is a lesser-known but beloved Christmas carol written by Edmund Sears and composed by Richard Storrs Willis in 1849. As the title suggests, the song recounts the holy night when angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus:
It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold
“Peace on the Earth, good will to men
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing
The song goes on to reflect on how two thousand years later, there is still sorrow, strife, and war throughout the world. The chorus serves as a prayer for peace among all people:
For lo! The days are hast’ning on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold
When peace shall over all the Earth
Its ancient splendors fling
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” movingly juxtaposes the hope and beauty of the first Christmas night with mankind’s ongoing need for peace, redemption, and brotherhood throughout the ages. Its subtle, haunting melody complements the soulful lyrics.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is another classic with the word “night” in its lyrics:
Said the night wind to the little lamb
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite”
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
“Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea”
This song was written in 1962 with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. It calls for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis and includes the famous lines asking if you can “see what I see” and “hear what I hear” on the night when Jesus was born under the Christmas star. This unique carol became a hit for Bing Crosby and Perry Como that year. The back and forth between the night wind, lamb, and shepherd boy serves to emphasize the wondrous events occurring on this pivotal night in Bethlehem.
In the Bleak Midwinter
“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a lesser-known Christmas carol composed by Gustav Holst based on a poem by Christina Rossetti. It describes the chill on the night of Jesus’ birth:
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow
Snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter
The carol goes on to imagine what gifts the Wise Men could have brought baby Jesus, before concluding that the best gift is simply a heart full of love. The evocative language used to describe the bitter cold winter night helps convey the stark conditions in which the precious newborn Jesus entered the world to bring salvation to mankind. The beautiful, sweeping melody adds to the carol’s wintry yet reverent feel.
Christmas carols that reference the holy night of Jesus’s nativity capture the imagination in a unique way. Songs like “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night,” “The Christmas Song,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” use descriptive language, imagery, and melody to transport listeners back to that sacred, silent night in Bethlehem. The stillness, chill, and darkness of night juxtaposed with the glory of the heavenly hosts proclaiming Christ’s birth contrasts the ordinary with the miraculous. These moving carols remind us Christmas is about hope, peace, and the light of God incarnate coming into the world. Their messages transcend generations and remain relevant, even centuries after being written. For as long as we celebrate Christmas, these beautiful, classic night-themed carols will continue stirring wonder and awe in the hearts of believers.
|Song||Year Written||Writer(s)||Key Lyrics Referencing Night|
|Silent Night||1818||Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber||“Silent night, holy night / All is calm, all is bright”|
|O Holy Night||1847||Adolphe Adam, John Sullivan Dwight||“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining / It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth”|
|The Christmas Song||1945||Robert Wells, Mel Tormé||“Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow / Will find it hard to sleep tonight”|
|It Came Upon a Midnight Clear||1849||Edmund Sears, Richard Storrs Willis||“It came upon the midnight clear / That glorious song of old”|
|Do You Hear What I Hear?||1962||Noël Regney, Gloria Shayne Baker||“Said the night wind to the little lamb / Do you see what I see?”|
|In the Bleak Midwinter||Early 1900s||Christina Rossetti, Gustav Holst||“In the bleak midwinter / Frosty wind made moan”|