The Story of Jingle Bells

Jingle bells, jingle bells,

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to ride

In a one horse opens sleigh

Jingle bells is one of the most popular Christmas carols sung during the holidays.  In fact, it has become so widespread and popular that the words “Christmas carols” wouldn’t mean the same without it.  So who is the remarkable person who composed this song that lasted for centuries and never got off the Christmas charts? 

To whom do we give credit?

The song “Jingle Bells” was actually not originally made for Christmas, but for winter.  It was formerly known as “The One Horse Open Sleigh,” by James Pierpont in 1850.  He was inspired by the annual one-horse open-sleigh races on Salem and Pleasant Streets between Medford Square and Malden Square, and wrote the song in a boarding house in town.  In 1859, it was reprinted with the title, “Jingle Bells or One Horse Open Sleigh.”

Who is James Pierpont?

James Lord Pierpont was born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1822.  He was born to a New England Unitarian family who were opposed to the practice of slavery.  Years later, he moved to the South and worked as an organist in a church in Georgia.

Though not proven, it has been reported that he composed his famous winter song for his father’s Sunday School class on Thanksgiving, and it became so popular that it was sung again during Christmas.  JamesPierpont died in Winter Haven, Florida in 1893 at the age of 71.

What were the original lyrics?

These are the original lyrics and spellings for the first two of the four verses (taken fromamericanmusicpreservation.com):

    Dashing thro’ the snow,

    In a one horse open sleigh,

    O’er the hills we go,

    Laughing all the way;

    Bells on bob tail ring,

    Making spirits bright,

    Oh what sport to ride and sing

    A sleighing song tonight.

    Chorus:

    Jingle bells, Jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way;

    Oh! what joy it is to ride

    In a one horse open sleigh. [repeat four lines]

    A day or two ago

    I thought I take a ride

    And soon Miss Fannie Bright

    Was seated by my side,

    The horse was lean and lank

    Misfortune seem’d his lot

    He got into a drifted bank

    And we, we got up sot.

    Chorus:

    Jingle bells, Jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way;

    Oh! what joy it is to ride

    In a one horse open sleigh. [repeat all four lines]

More from this series:

Music History:  The Story of Auld Lang Syne

Music History:  The Story of The Happy Birthday Song

For more interesting articles, visit http://jquill89.webs.com/

Reference:

“One Horse Open Sleigh: The Story of Jingle Bells” (americanmusicpreservation.com)

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