Being expat

Silent Night, or Ciùin an oidhch’, naomh an oidhch’ – by Rachel Hay

Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht is a carol by the Austrian priest  Joseph Moor in 1816 and it is believed that Franz Xaver Gruber produced the German melody in only a few hours (in 1818), written as a guitar accompaniment. It has been translated into 55 other languages (cf. Wikipedia)

When I published the German and Italian version on my site last year, Rachel Hay left some very interesting comments concerning the Scottish Gaelic version of it and kindly accepted to send me this version that I now am very honored to publish here below.


Ciùin an oidhch’, naomh an oidhch’

Saoghal sèimh, balbh gun soills’

Moire ‘us Eòsaph, a’ chàraid gaoil,

Caithris an naoidhean bheannaichte, chaomh

Suaint’ ann am fois tha bho Nèamh,

Suaint’ ann am fois tha bho Nèamh.


Quiet the night, holy the night

Calm world, silent without light

Mary and Joseph, the lovely family (or “couple”; “càraid” has various meanings)

Watch over the blessed, loved child

Surrounded in peace that’s from heaven,

Surrounded in peace that’s from heaven.


Ciùin an oidhch’, naomh an oidhch’,

Nochd an reul a b’ àillte soills’

Do na cìobairean shuas air a’ bheinn

‘S chualas ainglean le aobhneas a’ seinn:

Crìosd ar Fear-saoraidh a th’ ann;

Crìosd ar Fear-saoraidh a th’ ann.


Quiet the night, holy the night

Night of the star that was shining bright

To the shepherds up on the hill

And heard angels singing with joy

Christ our Redeemer is here, (literally “Free-er Man”)

Christ our redeemer is here.


Ciùin an oidhch, naomh an oidhch’,

Aoin Mhic Dhè ‘us àille leinn,

Gràdh a’ dòrtadh oirrn bho Do ghnùis,

Aoibhneach an uair is Tu còmhnaidh rinn dlùth:

Fàilte do ‘r Slànaighear caoin;

Fàilte do ‘r Slànaighear caoin.


Quiet the night, holy the night,

Only Son of God and our delight,

Love shining on us from Your face,

Joyous when You are close with us

Welcome to our beloved Saviour,

Welcome to our beloved Saviour.


Oidhche shàmhach, oidhche naomh,

Cadal ciùin tha air an t-saoghal

Màiri ‘us Eòsaph ‘s an stàbull fhuar

A’ freastal a’ phàist tha àlainn ‘n a shnuadh,

A’ sith bho nèamh ‘n a shuain,

A’ sith bho nèamh ‘n a shuain.


Calm night, holy night,

Quiet sleep is on the world

Mary and Joseph in the cold stable

Attending the beautiful child/baby (literally “the baby in his looks/complexion”)

The peace from heaven wrapping him,

The peace from heaven wrapping him.


Oidhche shàmhach, oidhche naomh,

B’ e buachaill chunnaic fòs an t-soills’

‘S a chuala farsaing feadh na tìr

An t-sèist bh’ aig ceòl an ainglean binn:

Tha Crìosd, am Fear-saoraidh, ‘n ur còir,

Tha Crìosd, am Fear-saoraidh, ‘n ur còir.


Calm night, holy night,

Shepherd-boys were seeing also the light (“buachaill” is “shepherd” in Scotland but a generic “boy” in Ireland)

And heard across the length of the land

The chorus that was at the music of the melodious angel

Christ, the Redeemer, is in our love (also “justice” or “duty”)

Christ, the Redeemer, is in our love.


Oidhche shàmhach, oidhche naomh,

Aon Mhac Dhè, cho maiseach leinn;

Tha gràdh a’ boillsgeadh oirnn bho d’ ghnùis

‘S tha uair nan gràs an-dràsd’ dhuinn dlùth,

Shlànaighear, bho ‘n rugadh tu,

Shlànaighear, bho ‘n rugadh tu.


Calm night, holy night,

One Son of God, so beautiful to us;

Love is beaming on us from your face,

And the hour of grace is now near to us,

Saviour, from when you were born (or “from your birth”)

Saviour, from when you were born.


Obviously it’s not as close to the German as, for example, the English is, but German and English are much more similar than German and Gaelic. Some of the places where it’s very different, it has the sort of imagery that’s very common to Gaelic Christmas songs (there is always a mention of shepherds on hills).

I think whoever translated it might have referred to both German and English and taken whatever is easier – for example, in the second verse, “Criosd ar Fear-saoraidh a th’ ann” is more like “Christ der Retter ist da”, “… is here” than the English “… is born”.

Please note that this text is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish. The words to the Irish translation can be found here –  and are an independent translation. They still resemble the German words, but any resemblance to the Gaelic lyrics are only incidental to being translated from the same source. What is interesting: sometimes with those two languages (which are mutually intelligible), there’s only one translation from another language, and then it’s just sort of re-spelt for the other, and sometimes they translate things independently and end up with similar-but-quite-different things, like this time.

And actually, although I’ve given here the lyrics I know, Omniglot offers a second translation, as well which is a bit different again.

But all are closer to the original German lyrics than the Italian one is!




Rachel was born in South Australia to an Australian mother and a British father. As a child, she travelled with her parents and younger sister to various countries including Denmark, Austria, Singapore, South Korea, and of course the UK and New Zealand, and it was this travel which prompted her interest in languages. She speaks English and Scottish Gaelic, the language of her grandparents. Through attending a German-medium secondary school in Australia, she used also to be able to speak German and French, but fears she has forgotten most of those two languages through disuse! She keeps a blog in which she talks about languages, Christianity, Australia, and life in general.

Categories: Being expat

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