Silent Night?

17 November 2023 – 7 January 2024

How quiet was it really on Christmas Eve? Nativity scenes involving dozens of visitors playing instruments convey rather a different impression than “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the quintessential carol. This year's Christmas exhibition offers scope for numerous interpretations – plus a stage for the keen singers among the museum's visitors.

Listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, “Silent Night, Holy Night” is a worldwide hit that at Christmas is sung in over 350 languages.

This classic tune pictures Mary and Joseph watching over baby Jesus while the world around them is at rest. Cries of hallelujah from the heavenly host soon resound in the middle verse, however. The night can't have been quite so silent after all.

From a choir of angels to punk rockers
This year's Christmas exhibition therefore adds a question mark to the carol's title. “Silent Night?” presents numerous facts about this classic Christmas carol while considering new satirical and political takes on it, and gives visitors the chance to sample a range of interpretations of it.

Any semblance of peace is shattered at the latest when Die Toten Hosen belt out their punk version of “Silent Night”. Punk rockers on the one hand, a heavenly choir of angels, traditional bands, and shepherds on shawms on the other: things appear to be just as boisterous in nativity scenes from elsewhere in Europe and South America.

Over 150 guests in party mood
These music-making guests are joined by market traders who would certainly know how to cry their wares – not forgetting all their animals.

An Italian nativity scene contains over 150 figures, including a party celebrating the evening with pizza. For once, the guests take centre stage rather than the Holy Family. 

Singers wanted
Helping museum visitors to embrace the festive spirit, audio stations relay Christmas carols from the nations whose nativity scenes are on display, ranging from Poland to Austria and as far as Peru.

Anyone keen to add a further musical note to our nativity scenes need only take their place in front of the backdrop of their choice to display their vocal talent. It does not even need to be a rendition of “Silent Night”!