Enthusiasm for singing ‘Jingle Bells’ spans many decades
Of Cabbages and Kings
A sledder catches some air on the hill just off Oakland between Ninth and Tenth streets north of Eastern Washington University’s dorms after the big snowstorm of January 2008. While not quite the same, it was a similar activity that got James S. Pierpont’s creative juices flowing to write “Jingle Bells” for his father in 1840.
Jingle Bells has been noted as “One of the greatest hits of Christmas.”
James S. Pierpont wrote the song in 1840 as a Thanksgiving song for his father. The elder Piermont was a pastor in the Unitarian Church at Medford, Mass.
The younger Pierpont hadn’t started out to write a song. He had decided to take a break from writing one day and watch children coasting down a sled hill. They reminded him of racing horse-drawn sleds when he was a boy. Some lyrics came to his mind and he soon was humming a tune with “one horse open sleigh” in it. He visited a neighbor lady’s home and played his quick version on her piano. She remarked, “You’ve got a merry little jingle there.” Young Pierpont revised his lyrics to include “Jingle.”
The song was still a present for his father the Rev. Pierpont. The congregation soon enjoyed it as well. When young Pierpont moved a few years later to Savannah, Ga. he had “One Horse Open Sleigh” published. The year was 1857. By 1870 it was the most popular Christmas song in America. Jingle Bells has remained popular among children all these years.
Some years ago I was asked to play piano for a Christmas program at Amber School. It must have been the last year of that school – their last Christmas. The room was packed with both adults and children. Santa Claus appeared and gave each person a sack of candy. Then came “Jingle Bells.” I played with enthusiasm. One verse, two verses, three…I couldn’t hear myself. The kids’ voices became louder and louder. I could not compete with them. Five times, six, 14? If some of them had not needed to go home they might be singing still.
It was time to give the piano a rest. Not even I could hear it anyway. And that was OK.
A large room filled with laughter and good fun among people of all ages is probably in our rearview mirrors. I’ll never forget it and was glad to be a part of it.
Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.