an intro to “Silent Night & Christmas apples” ⇔Holiday: Christmas
© Dec 2021 Michael Krigline, MA
Note to teachers: You’ll find many Christmas resources at EFLsuccess.com (start with the list on the bottom of the “Candy Cane” page).
Underlined terms are explained in the vocabulary section below.
An Introduction to “Silent Night” and Chinese Christmas Apples
The popular Christmas carol “Silent Night” was written in times like our own, when the world needed peace. The words were written by an Austrian pastor in 1816, just a year after the end of Napoleon’s wars, which had devastated Europe for over a decade. The song was written in the German language, thanks to a friendship between a young priest named Joseph Mohr and a local musician named Franz Gruber. Mohr asked Gruber to write a Christmas tune that could be played on guitar because the church organ was broken, and without the loud organ, they would have had a “silent night” instead of the popular Christmas program. Since then, it has been translated into over 300 languages, and in 2011 it even gained UNESCO status as an international intangible cultural heritage.
The song has many powerful stories. In 1914, during World War 1, national leaders refused to allow a truce on Christmas day. But on Christmas Eve, German and English soldiers joined each other in singing “Silent Night,” on opposite sides of the battlefield. Then the soldiers bravely came out of their trenches, still singing, and met each other in the middle. Through the night, they exchanged chocolate, cheese and other gifts, and even played a friendly game of football (soccer). This song accomplished what politicians and generals could not bring to pass.
In Chinese, the song’s title is “Ping An Ye 平安夜,” and since that title (PING An Ye) sounds like PING Guo (苹果), the Mandarin Chinese word for “apple”, the song has given rise to an interesting new custom. On Christmas Eve, many young people give decorated “peace apples” to friends, lovers, and co-workers. According to the LA Times, the tradition dates back to before 2010. Regular apples are wrapped in colorful paper or a decorated box, and sometimes the apples have been painted with words like “Merry Christmas.” It isn’t unusual to find apples for sale at your local market for two or three times the normal price, in the days before Christmas Eve. Some lovers take the tradition even further, insisting that the gift show extravagant effort. For example, the buyer must go to the trouble to collect small coins from more than a dozen friends instead of simply spending his own money, or the apple must be painted and wrapped in a way that reflects his or her deep love.
How fitting it is for the people of China to find a beautiful new way to celebrate Christmas! The holiday honors the “silent night” long ago when God showed His love in an extravagant way, sending Jesus Christ to collect our many sins and, in exchange, give Believers His precious, eternal peace.
Vocabulary: (underlined terms in the article; *key terms) For common English abbreviations like sth and sb, see http://eflsuccess.com/common/
- Christmas carol: a type of traditional Christmas song
- *to devastate: to damage sth very badly or completely (as in a war or explosion)
- organ: a piano-like musical instrument, traditionally using pipes/air to make a very full sound (modern organs imitate the sound electronically)
- UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (a part of the UN, concerned with protecting culture, and promoting education and science
- *intangible: not touchable; not physical, but still valuable (e.g., a song)
- *truce: an agreement between enemies to temporarily stop fighting
- trenches: long narrow holes, dug in the ground to protect soldiers
- Mandarin: the majority “Han” Chinese language (普通话)
- *extravagant: someone who spends a lot of money, esp more than is necessary; sth done in an exaggerated way, or with more effort than is necessary or expected
- sin: according to the Bible, sin is every human act that falls short of the perfection God intended for humans; all sin separates people from God, and the only way to “pay” for sin was through blood sacrifice
- Popular songs (Like “Silent Night”) often come from a partnership between several people, including one who writes the words and one who writes the music. What are some other things that require partnership or cooperation?
- If you could write a song or somehow “communicate” something that would encourage people today, what might it be about? What intangible thing do people need these days?
- “Silent Night” stopped soldiers from fighting, but only for a short time. Why do governments go to war? Why do individuals fight each other? What would it take for humanity to completely get rid of war and fighting?
- Have you heard of “Christmas Eve Apples” before? What surprised or encouraged you in that paragraph? Explain.
- Tell us about something people in your culture do to celebrate, which people in most other nations do not do. (E.g., to celebrate a birthday, a major achievement, or a historical event)
- If you have more time, discuss this sentence from the Bible: “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.” (1 John 3:1 Voice translation)
If you have time, watch the Columbia International Festival’s YouTube video: “Christmas Around the World” (which we helped to produce). The last song is “Silent Night” in Chinese. CIF’s YouTube channel:
References include various Christmas TV programs,
and links shown on the photos
EFLsuccess.com; original content ©Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. This resource was created for our students under my understanding of “fair use” for educational resources. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use. See our Website Standards and Use Policy.
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