Weihnachten 2019, Knabenchor Basel, Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. Foto: www.knabenkantorei.ch.

Silent Night, Holy Night

The Tambora volcano eruption in Indonesia in April 1815 caused a significant cooling of the earth. It was the largest recorded eruption that killed 90 000 people and sent about 150 cubic kilometres of dust and ash thirty kilometres into the atmosphere. The force was equal to 170 000′ Hiroshima bombs’.

The cooling was also felt in Switzerland and other countries of Central Europe. It snowed in the valleys and rained continuously in the summer months. 1815 and 1816 were years’ without a summer.

Floods and poor harvests, and a great famine were the results. This period lasted until 1819. Then average temperatures returned. The period also marked the last great famine in Switzerland, especially in the northeastern part of the new Confederation of 22 cantons.

The dust and ash in the atmosphere also changed sunrise and sunset colours. The sunlight reflected, and beautiful violet, orange, red, blue and green combinations could be seen.

However, it did not alleviate hunger in Switzerland and the surrounding areas. However, the Austrian Father Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) and Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863) brought spiritual relief.

They composed in and for the hungry village of Oberndorf (near Salzburg) for Christmas 1818 “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht”. They were the first to recite it themselves.

In Oberndorf, the song signalled solidarity, solidarity and comfort. Within a few years, it was also known in Switzerland, without social media, but because of the quality of the composition.

(Source: Akademie der Naturwissenschaften Schweiz, www.scnat.ch; Wikipedia).