Minuit Chrétien – O Holy Night (French Lyrics English Translation)

Minuit Chretien O Holy Night

Song background

Very few people know that the the famous Christmas carol, O Holy Night, was originally French! The French name of the song in French is “Minuit Chrétien” (Pronunciation: mee-nwee kray-tee-un; Meaning: Christian midnight). Another name for the carol is “Cantique de Noël” (meaning Christmas Hyme).

The lyrics (les paroles) to Minuit Chrétien were written in 1843 in France by Placide Cappeau. The melody was written soon after by Adolphe Adam. Minuit Chrétien is traditionally sung at the beginning of midnight masses in French churches.

The song quickly became popular in the English-speaking world when John Sullivan Dwight wrote the English lyrics. Notable performances of Minuit Crétien have been made by Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, Andre Rieu, Andrea Bocelli and Joan Baez. French-Canadian singer, Céline Dion, made a recording of the English version of the song in 1998 for the TV show, “These Are Special Times”.

We have included YouTube videos toward the bottom of the page where you can listen to Minuit Crétien and following along with the French lyrics and English translation.

Minuit Cretien lyrics analysis

In the following section we’ve selected lines of interest which offer interesting insights to French grammar and vocabulary.

Minuit ! Chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle

The first line of the song translates to “Midnight! Christians, it’s the solemn hour“. The song has traditionally been used at the start of midnight masses on Christmas eve throughout the French-speaking world.

Où l’homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à  nous

This line translates to “When the man God came down to us”. Here, the verb descendre is being conjugated in the passé simple, a literary past tense.

Pour effacer la tache originelle

We translated this line to “To wipe away the original sin”. Tache translates to stain or mark. The biblical concept of original sin goes all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis.

Et de son père arrêter le courroux, Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance

These two lines translate to “And stop the wrath of His Father, The entire world jumped for joy with hope”. These lines include two advanced vocabulary words: the noun, courroux (wrath, anger, rage) and the verb tressailler (tremble, quiver, tremble, shake).

A cette nuit qui lui donne un sauveur

This line was difficult to translate. Our translation was: “To this night that gives Him a savior”. The indirect object pronoun lui means “to him”, in this context. We believe the song lyrics are suggesting that this night (Christmas) gave God his Savoir (Jesus).

De notre foi que la lumière ardente

This line translates to “It’s from our faith that the blazing light”. The French adjective ardent translates to ardent, burning and intense.

Le Roi des Rois naît dans une humble crèche

This line translates to “The King of kings was born in a humble manger”. The verb naitre (to be born) appears in the passé simplé, the literary past tense. The word crèche has multiple translations including manger or nativity scene (in this context) and pre-school.

A votre orgueil c’est de là qu’un Dieu prêche,

The line was also difficult to translate. Our translation was “To your pride, it’s from from there that God preaches”. The noun orgueil can translate to pride (in the negative sense) as well as both pride and “apple in one’s eye” in the positive sense.

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave

We translated this line to “The Redeemer has broken every hindrance”. The word entrave translates literally to shackle or fetter, but translates figuratively to hindrance or constraint.

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L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer

This line translates to “L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer”. The verb enchaîner translates to enchain or tie up.

Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance ?

This line translates to “Who will tell Him of our gratitude?”. In this line, the verb dire (to so) is conjugated in the futur simple tense to mean “will say”. The word reconnaissance means gratitude as well as recognition and acknowledgement.

Minuit Chretien O Holy Night French Lyrics

Minuit Cretien (Oh Holy Night) French lyrics and English Translation

Minuit ! Chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle
Où l’homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à  nous,
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de son père arrêter le courroux:
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
A cette nuit qui lui donne un sauveur
Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance
Noël ! Noël ! Voici le Rédempteur !
Noël ! Noël ! Voici le Rédempteur !

Midnight! Christians, it’s the solemn hour
When the man God came down to us,
To wipe away the original sin
And stop the wrath of His Father
The entire world jumped for joy with hope
To this night that gives Him a Savior
People on their knees, awaiting your deliverance
Christmas! Christmas! Here’s the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Here’s the Redeemer!

De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l’enfant
Comme autrefois, une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l’Orient
Le Roi des Rois naît dans une humble crèche,
Puissants du jour fiers de votre grandeur,
A votre orgueil c’est de là qu’un Dieu prêche,
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur !
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur !

It’s from our faith that the blazing light
Guides all of us to the cradle of the child
Like in the past, a bright star
And drive the leaders from the East
The King of kings was born in a humble manger
Powerful of proud days of Your greatness
To your pride, it’s from from there that God preaches
Bow your heads in before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads in before the Redeemer!

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave,
La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert
Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer,
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance ?
C’est pour nous tous qu’il naît, qu’il souffre et meurt:
Peuple, debout ! chante ta délivrance,
Noël ! Noël ! chantons le Rédempteur !
Noël ! Noël ! chantons le Rédempteur !

The Redeemer has broken every hindrance
The earth is free and the heavens are open
He ses a brother where there was just a slave
Love units those whom iron enchained
Who will tell Him of our gratitude?
He was born for all of us, that he suffered and died:
People, stand up! Sing your deliverance!
Christmas! Christmas! Let’s sing of the Redeemer.
Christmas! Christmas! Let’s sing of the Redeemer.

Listen to Minuit Chrétien (O Holy Night) on YouTube

The following video shows Pavarotti singing Minuit Crétien (Oh Holy Night) in French.

This video shows a performance by André Rieu:

In this video, Joan Baez performs the song:

Discover more:

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About David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site, FrenchLearner.com, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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