Believe it or not, "O Holy Night" was written by someone who was, well, not very holy at all. In fact, poet and wine merchant Placide Cappeau claimed to be an atheist who hated the clergy.
At Christmastime 1843, though, when his local priest in Rocquemaure, France asked him to write a poem, he couldn't say no. The poem he wrote, "Minuit, Chrétiens" (or "Midnight, Christians") was a resounding success.Four years later, noted French composer Adolph Adam wrote a melody to accompany it, and the song became an instant hit at the opera.
In 1855, America's first classical music critic, John Sullivan Dwight, translated Cappeau's lyrics into those we sing today; lyrics that are considered some of the most beautiful and spiritual ever written, but lyrics that were written by someone who wasn't spiritual at all.
Click on the player below to listen to the complete series "The Forgotten History of Our Favorite Christmas Carols."