The inspiration for "O Holy Night" was originally written by Placide Cappeau and Adolphe Charles Adams. It was written in French. John Sullivan Dwight translated "Cantique de Noel" into English in 1855 when it officially became "O Holy Night."
Cappeau wrote a poem called "Minuit Chretien" in 1847, and Adam, a friend of Cappeau, later wrote the score for the poem. The music and poem combination were called "Cantique de Noel."
The original French inspiration for the song was written at the request of a church priest in France. It rose in popularity and became part of French Catholic Christmas masses. After the church found out that Adams was Jewish and that Cappeau had walked away from the church to join a Socialist movement, the church denounced the original song.
About a decade later, the current version of the song was translated into English and introduced to America.