‘Jingle Bells’ is one of the best known Christmas songs in the world, but its history tells us that it is not specifically a Christmas song. Known today as a Christmas song full of fun and laughter and is popular as a parody theme. James Lord Pierpont originally wrote the song in 1857 and it was copyrighted at the time as ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’. The song was reprinted in 1859 under the revised title of ‘Jingle Bells’. Pierpont wrote the song for a Thanksgiving program at a church in Savannah, Georgia, USA, where he was the resident organist.
The tune of ‘Jingle Bells’ has been used in German and French songs to celebrate winter fun. The lyrics have nothing to do with the ones we all know and love. For example, Francis Blanche wrote the French song ‘Vive Le Vent’ which means ‘Long Live the Wind’ with references to New Year’s Day.
In 1898, ‘Jingle Bells’ was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in the United States. Since then it has been recorded by many great artists including Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters. In 2006, when Kimberley Locke sang it, it became a number one hit on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
Here’s a fun fact. In 1965, on December 16, ‘Jingle Bells’ was the first song broadcast from outer space. Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford, the astronauts aboard Gemini 6 played a joke. They relayed to mission control that they saw a UFO with eight smaller UFOs in the lead. Their reports followed that the pilot in the larger command module UFO was wearing a red suit. The prank concluded with the astronaut duo playing ‘Jingle Bells’ on a harmonica accompanied by jingle bells that had been smuggled aboard. Both instruments are on display today at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Interestingly, they are considered the first musical instruments to be played in space!
‘Jingle Bells’ has also been the subject of parody. The best known tribute to the original song is “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms. In the 1960s, children in the US used to sing the line “Jingle bells, Santa smells, Easter’s on its way.” Oh what fun it is to ride around in a beat-up Chevrolet! Here’s another parody of ‘Jingle Bells’, a verse that kids and adults loved and still love to sing while enjoying a few laughs along the way ‘Running through the snow, on a broken pair of skis, crashing into the trees, and a piece of moldy cheese Ha Ha Ha, the snow is turning red, I think I’m almost dead, please take me to the hospital before I lose my mind. LOL.’
‘Jingle Bells’ remains a favorite Christmas song, whether sung in its original form or as a parody, it remains popular around the world today. A song that brings families and communities together to share joy and festive fun at Christmas each year!