Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Album: Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996)
Charted: 49

Songfacts®:

  • This song originated on Savatage's Dead Winter Dead album in 1995 but became an important hit for the band's side project, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Because Savatage had the well-earned reputation of being an '80s Heavy Metal band, many radio stations were reluctant to play the Christmas offering. In our interview with Jon Oliva, who wrote the song with Robert Kinkel and Paul O'Neill, he recalled: "They never even listened to it. You know how we know? Because the next year we sent the exact same song and put a Christmas tree on the cover and an angel and called it 'Trans-Siberian Orchestra,' and it was #1 on 500 radio stations."

    Under the Savatage moniker, "12/24" peaked at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. The TSO name brought it to #49 on the same chart a year later and also to #29 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. It's featured on TSO's debut album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.
  • This song tells the story of a Sarajevo-born cellist (Vedran Smailovic) who returns to his homeland to find it in ruins after the Bosnian War. TSO lyricist Paul O'Neill explained to Christianity Today: "I think what most broke this man's heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed."

    TSO created an instrumental medley of "Carol of the Bells" and "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" to fit the story. "The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope," O'Neill said.
  • "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" was used in the "Christmas Wishes" episode of The Office (US version) in 2011.

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