By Mike Whittlesey

As the story goes, Joseph Mohr, a young priest preparing for Mass on Christmas Eve, went for a walk that afternoon, taking with him a poem he had written two years earlier. Consisting of six stanzas, the priest hoped his dear friend, a musician-schoolteacher living in a nearby town, could compose a melody and guitar arrangement for his original work, to fulfill his intention of singing it during midnight Mass that evening. His friend, Franz Gruber, obliged, not knowing that the notes he created in a matter of minutes would eventually become one of the most recorded Christmas hymns of all time.

The story of how “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” as it was written in German at the time, is a remarkable one. This year, as that simple, yet incredible story celebrates its 200th anniversary, consider this: According to Music Reports, the world’s most advanced rights administration platform, has verified that, as of November 2017, 137,315 different versions of “Silent Night” have been recorded!

In honor of the bicentennial of “Silent Night,” we have chosen to publish a stylized image depicting the scene on the front page of this edition of The Progress Review, which is filled with a few holiday traditions of our own making.

As you explore the pages of this special holiday edition, we hope you’ll enjoy the “Message of Peace and Hope” composed by area pastors and the thoughts area fifth graders have to offer in their essays “What Christmas Means to Me.” We very much appreciate the time and effort the clergy, young people and their teachers have invested in these compositions that offer a more modern appreciation of the holiday season.

We also thank the area businesses who help make this special publication possible with the expression of their holiday greetings you will find sprinkled throughout these 16 pages.

If you have not already done so, we invite you to enjoy another holiday tradition, this one made possible by the residents of La Porte City who have adorned their homes with festive lights and decorations. The Progress Review’s “The Lights of La Porte City” slideshow set to music offers a reminder of what the holiday season looks like in our little corner of the world and often draws comments from those with special connections to La Porte City who find themselves far away from their hometown at Christmas. You can find it posted on our Facebook page and website ( for your viewing pleasure.

As the holiday season draws near, please accept our best wishes for a happy time spent with family and friends. Along the way, we do hope there will be some time for sleep (in heavenly peace).