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Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells was always meant as a Christmas song

Jingle Bells was not always meant as a Christmas song

Oh what fun

Ever noticed that the lyrics to Jingle Bells don't contain any mention of Christmas?

There is dispute over precisely when it was written, but it's generally accepted it was in Massachusetts. The first claim is it was written for a thanksgiving service, first performed in Boston on September 15, 1857. The second is in a bar in Medford in a tavern, by none other than the uncle of JP Morgan, James Lord Pierpont.

Whichever it is, the idea it was initially written as a Christmas song is incorrect. It only became associated with Christmas many years later.

JP Morgan

It wasn't even called Jingle Bells when it was first written. Although the origin is in dispute, the copyright filed in 1857 by Pierpont isn't, and it's for "Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh". It was originally known as just "One Horse Open Sleigh".

According to Ripleys Believe it or Not!, it was originally a drinking song. This fits in with the idea it was written in a tavern, but is there anything else which supports this idea? Some suggest the clinking of ice cubes in peoples glasses are the inspiration for the whole work, and racing sleighs along with dating girls and "going at it while you're young" would have been seen as too much for the church choir some say it was intended for.

Dating girls? So how many know of the verses after the first?

[Verse 2]
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
He got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot

[Verse 3]
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

[Verse 4]
Now the ground is white
Go it while you're 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

-- Jingle Bells, James Lord Pierpont 1857