During the past few days, we’ve been getting our Christmas decorations out. Since we’re in a new home this year, it has taken longer than usual for us to find the right new spots for all of our Christmas finery. We keep moving decorations around until we find the place where they fit the best. But one decoration, our Silent Night Church, seems to belong under our tree this year.
Every Christmas when I was a girl, I waited excitedly for my mom to put out the Silent Night Church. The church was my favorite family Christmas decoration and I loved to turn the switch that lit up the cellophane stained glass windows. After that, I would wind the music box and then sit back and admire the magical wintery church scene as the melody of Silent Night filled our living room.
The little, steepled church sat on a 23” by 15” pine slat base that had been covered with plaster snow and painted white. Some kind of crystals…possibly salt or sugar…had been sprinkled over the white paint to make the whole scene glisten.
On the front of the church was a wreath, and placed around it were pine trees. The entire scene was surrounded by a fence that had been fashioned from small tree branches and painted white to match the rest of the scene. Standing in front of the church and under the bell tower, were two ceramic carolers dressed in choir robes.
Our Silent Night Church had been made many years earlier by my inventor great-grandfather. At his “day” job, he had invented machine parts and lathes for his brother-in-law’s machine shop. But at home, he delighted in creating fun and beautiful things for his family. Since my great-grandfather died in the 1940’s, my mom thinks the church could be almost 100 years old.
There is an actual Silent Night Chapel located in Austria that stands in the location of the former St. Nicholas Parish Church where the Christmas carol, Silent Night, was first performed on December 24, 1818.
St. Nicholas Parish Church
Silent Night Chapel
A young assistant priest named Father Joseph Mohr, had written the lyrics for Silent Night in 1816. In 1818, he asked the schoolmaster and church organist, Franz Saver Gruber, to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment to go with his song lyrics. Together, they performed the new carol during the Christmas Eve mass in the village of Oberndorf.
All of these many years later, this very old church which was hand made by a great-grandfather that I never knew, is still very special to me and my family. I hope all of you have favorite Christmas decorations that you look forward to seeing each December!