Softly Falls The Snow

Softly falls the snow,
Quiet and frozen rests the lake.
Christmas-like sparkles the forest:
Rejoice! The Christkind* will soon be here.

In our hearts it’s warm,
Silent are sorrow and grief,
Life’s worries fade away:
Rejoice! The Christkind will soon be here.

Soon it’s Christmas Eve,
Choir of angels awakes,
Just hear how lovely it sounds:
Rejoice! The Christkind will soon be here.

I grew up in the Austrian Alps, where it would usually snow long before Christmas Evening. The snow made the entire village seem peaceful like it had been dipped in cotton. I always loved the mood then. On those long winter evenings, my grandmother taught me the song “Leise rieselt der Schnee” (Snow Falls Softly).

The song talks about sitting and waiting for hours at the window in the hopes of seeing the arrival of the “Christkind” – a Christmas angel, the Christchild, a figure traditionally responsible to deliver Christmas gifts in Austria, like Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Children never see the Christkind in person, and parents tell them that the Christkind will not come and bring presents if they are nosy and try to spot it -which doesn’t work because we all tried to see it.

The children enter the living room, where the Christmas tree has been put up, for the opening of presents (the Bescherung), when the parents say that they think that the Christkind who has brought the presents has now left again. The departure is announced by the ringing of a small bell, which the parents pretend to have heard or which is secretly done by one of the adults in the family.

The bell was kept in a drawer, I had found it once when I had been searching for a special napkin, yet my grandma pretended she knew nothing about it.

To this day the song reminds me of my childhood.

The song was written by preacher Eduard Ebel in the 19th century -his effort at capturing the wintery and celebratory mood of Advent, a word deriving from Latin that means “arrival.” For centuries, Christians have spent the four weeks ahead of the festival of Jesus’ birth making special preparations and honoring the season. In 1850, Hamburg resident and missionary Johann Hinrich Wichern came up with the idea of an Advent wreath, which he used to decorate the prayer room of an institution he founded. Each Sunday, a candle is placed on the wreath and lit to signify the wait for Christmas Eve.

It’s going to be a white Christmas in Ohio!

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten!

The Christkind is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in Austria, Switzerland, southern and western Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the eastern part of Belgium, Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary, parts of northeastern France, Upper Silesia in Poland, parts of Latin America, in certain areas of southern Brazil, and in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. Christkind is called in Portuguese Menino Jesus (“Boy Jesus”), in Hungarian Jézuska (“Little Jesus”), in Slovak Ježiško (“Little Jesus”), in Czech Ježíšek (“Little Jesus”), in Latin America Niño Dios (“Child God”) or Niño Jesús (“Child Jesus”) and in Croatian Isusić or Isusek (“Little Jesus”), in Polish Dzieciątko (“Little baby”). In some parts of Italy, the analogous figure of the Christkind is known as Gesù Bambino (“Child Jesus”).


20 thoughts on “Softly Falls The Snow

  1. Thank you for these wonderful memories and soothing imagery! We rarely see snow here on the Carolina Coast. Even a few flakes would be nice. But I have fond memories of snow falling at night. It is very peaceful.


  2. All those names, same but different! I love the photo. It wasn’t snowing in November and early December the year I was in Austria, I seem to have brought the sunshine and warmth from Australia with me.
    I heard all about the Krampus when I was in Austria. I had a meal at a farm in a small village. The Krampus doesn’t bring presents. Is that right?

    Liked by 1 person

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