Ask children if they know a song about bells. Almost immediately, they start singing “Jingle Bells”. Although it is commonly known as a Christmas song, as it has nothing to do with this celebration. It is a fun song about riding in a horse drawn sleigh, with a few mishaps on their journey, meant to make people laugh. Since GOOD laughter is GOOD medicine for the heart, mind, and soul (really ! Research proves it), let’s have some Jingle Bells fun.
All in the spirit to make you laugh, let’s watch a video, explore the origins of the song, as well as some fun astronomical history, deviate into the childhood versions, and then… well, maybe you can share your own version with us.
This video made me laugh, not only because holiday icons have become musicians jamming out to this song, but also because the familiar melody gets a make over by different instruments and voices, as well as one reindeer who starts some heavy metal jamming and sings the “batman” version, then Santa puts an end to that !
The author and composer of Jingle Bells was a minister called James Pierpoint who composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating his Boston Sunday School Thanksgiving. The song was so admired that it was repeated at Christmas. There are actually 4 original verses. Just imagine attending that first event, full of the spiritual meaning of the celebration, and hearing these verses. What a surprise ! No wonder it became popular.
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight
Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride In a one horse open sleigh (2x)
A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot. (Chorus)
- A day or two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
- And on my back I fell;
- A gent was riding by
- In a one horse open sleigh,
- He laughed as there I sprawling lie
- But quickly drove away.
- Now the ground is white
- Go at it while your young
- Take the girls tonight
- And sing this sleighing song;
- Just get a bobtailed bay
- Two forty as his speed
- Hitch him to an open sleigh
- And crack! You’ll take the lead.
Here’s a surprising fact many folks don’t know:
“We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit … I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit … “
The astronauts then produced a smuggled harmonica and sleighbells and broadcast a rendition of “Jingle Bells” (Smithsonian Magazine, December 2005 pp25ff). The harmonica, shown to the press upon their return, was a Hohner “Little Lady”, a tiny harmonica approximately one inch long, by 3/8 of an inch wide. Read the whole story here.
Kindermusik shares several versions of this song on the “Hello, Weather” album for the Imagine That program: A Sing and Play along version (with the sound of a real horse), a delightful jazzy version to dance along with, and a mellow soothing version to hug your favorite little one with to rock and hum along with. I love sharing with children how the same song can be played and enjoyed in so many different ways.
But they already kind of know that don’t they?
Both my children, around 5 years old started repeatedly singing that “batman” version that I remember from my childhood. Does every child singing this song have to repeat it incessantly ?
“Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. Batmobile lost a wheel, and Joker got away.” Actually, my daughter like to sing it “and Joker takes ballet”. When did that get added?
So, children love to come up with new words to this fun song. What a fun activity to do while traveling together in a car, or during a meal together? Will the new words your family writes become a new family tradition?