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What Do You Mean It’s Not a Christmas Song?

By Jonathan van Bilsen

One of the most popular Christmas songs, was not even a Yuletide melody when it was written. The cheerful and ever-popular holiday tune ‘Jingle Bells,’ has a history as lively as its melody. Written by James Lord Pierpont, in the mid-19th century, the song was originally intended for American Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.

In the early 1850s, Mr. Pierpont, a musician and songwriter, found himself in the bustling city of Medford, Massachusetts. The story goes, he was inspired by the lively sleigh races which were a common sight during the winter months. The jingling of the bells on the horses' harnesses, accompanied by the laughter and joy of the riders, left a lasting impression on him.

In 1857, Mr. Pierpont officially published "One Horse Open Sleigh," the original title of the song we now know as ‘Jingle Bells’. The song's catchy melody and lyrics captured the spirit of the season, making it an instant hit. Its popularity spread beyond Medford, and it was not long before ‘Jingle Bells’ became synonymous with winter festivities.

Over the years, ‘Jingle Bells’ underwent various adaptations and interpretations by different artists. It became a timeless classic, embraced by diverse beliefs and communities. Its enduring popularity led to countless recordings and renditions, ranging from traditional interpretations to playful and unexpected twists.

‘Jingle Bells’ quickly transcended its regional origins and became a global anthem for the holiday season. Its catchy refrain and joyful spirit made it a staple in Christmas carol playlists worldwide. The song's universal appeal lies in its ability to evoke a sense of merriment and nostalgia, reminding listeners of the joyous moments associated with the holiday season.

As we sing along to the familiar tune of ‘Jingle Bells’, we become part of a musical tradition, bridging generations and cultures. James Lord Pierpont's whimsical composition, inspired by the lively scenes of winter in Medford, has become a symbol of the festive cheer which unites us all during this special time of the year.

I would like to wish each and every one of you, all the best for a safe and happy Christmas season!

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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