The Unbelievable, Inspiring Story Behind 'O Holy Night'
But the French would not let that song die. Ten years after the song was composed, an American abolitionist, John Sullivan Dwight, heard the carol in French. He heard the vibrant message of hope — especially the verse that said in French, "The Redeemer has broken every bond/ He sees a brother where there was only a slave/ Love unites those that iron had chained."
Dwight freely translated from the French, switched a few things around (while keeping the same basic meaning), and gave us his English version which we sing today. In his version the line about oppression is translated, "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."
He brought the song to the United States where it quickly became popular before and during the American Civil War.
Here is an amazing a cappella rendition of Dwight's version which has the words we all know and love:
Legend has it that the French Catholic Church finally received the song back into their services after an encounter between French and German soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. During a lull in the fighting on Christmas Eve, some French soldiers began singing "Cantique de Noel." The German soldiers were impressed with their tune and responded with their own German Christmas songs. A truce held for 24 hours.
Next Page: The inspiring end of the story.