bells

THE TRADITION OF CHRISTMAS BELLS

Bells, especially Church Bells, have been associated traditionally with Christmas for a very long time. The church day starts at sunset in the Anglican and Catholic churches; this makes any further service that comes after the first service of the day.

 So after sunset traditionally, the first service is for Christmas day. They usually are rung to signal the start of this service. In the UK, the most massive bells are being rung four times in an hour before the ringing of smaller bells at midnight.

 In the Catholic Church, Easter and Christmas are the only times that Masses are allowed to be held at midnight. Traditionally, the church and altar bells are rung while the Priest says the “Gloria” during the midnight masses.

Midnight masses at Christmas are traced back to the early church when it was believed that Jesus was born at midnight, although proof to this has not been found yet. So many Churches have midnight services on Christmas Eve. Those predominantly Catholic countries like Spain, France, and Italy, everyone tries to go for the midnight mass because it is very much valued.

It was the social norm to go carol singing with small handbells to play the tune of the carol in the Victoria Times. Sometimes there would only be the Handbell ringing, which is done still today.

Perhaps the most famous bells at Christmas now are the ones in the song ‘Jingle Bells.’ although the song was first known as “One Horse Open Sleigh” and was initially published in 1857 in the USA to be used as a song at thanksgiving and NOT for Christmas.

With time it became associated with Christmas as a result of the ‘snowy’ lyrics, and many choirs sang it in the Christmas season between the 1860s and 1870s. It was first recorded in 1889. Usually, the first verse only  (and chorus) is now sung. The other verses are about driving the ‘one-horse open sleigh’ instead of crashing and fast.

Jingle Bells is known to be the first broadcasted song, which was done from space in December 1965. Astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra thought they saw a sleigh right in space. They brought out a harmonica and some sleigh bells they had smuggled onto their spacecraft and sang and played the song.

James Lord Pierpont composed jingle Bells. The original version of the song had some words different and sung in a different tune from that of today. Some arguments exist in the location where it was written.  Some people believe the writing was done at Medford, Massachusetts, in 1850; others claim it was written around 1875 while James Lord Pierpoint stayed in Savannah, Georgia.

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