The tune, written to tide over a midnight mass after mice had put a church organ out of action, has ousted O Holy Night, which has held the position since 2003 but is now ranked second in the annual poll for radio station Classic FM.
Silent Night – which was first translated into English in 1863 – has had a timely return to the top as it was sung between the trenches during the Christmas truce in 1914. The UK has held a number of commemorative events this year to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.
Legend has it that the carol was written after mice nibbled through the bellows of the organ at St Nicholas Church in the Austrian village of Obendorf.
With no time to fix the instrument for the midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1818, the priest, Father Joseph Mohr, asked friend Franz Gruber to compose music to accompany a poem he had written two years earlier, Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht, and it was arranged for choir and guitar.
Thousands of listeners to Classic FM have been voting for their top choice since December 1 with a countdown of the full list to be broadcast on Christmas Day from 1pm in a programme hosted by John Brunning called The Nation’s Favourite Carol.
Silent Night last topped the list in 2002. Also included in the top 10 were O Holy Night, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, In The Bleak Midwinter (Holst version) and O Come All Ye Faithful.