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Jingle Bells

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This article is about the original song. For other uses, see Jingle Bells (disambiguation).

Kermit and Robin Sing Jingle Bells
Kermit and Robin sing the song in A Muppet Family Christmas.
Written by: James Lord Pierpont
Date: 1857
Paisley-jinglebells

Brad Paisley and the Sesame Street gang perform the song in Elmo's Christmas Countdown.

"Jingle Bells" is one of the best-known and commonly sung Christmas songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and published under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in 1857. Despite being widely regarded as a Christmas song, it is said to have been written about Thanksgiving.

Composition

James Lord Pierpont originally composed his most famous song in 1850. A plaque commemorating the "birthplace" of "Jingle Bells" adorns the side of a building in Medford, MA. Pierpont wrote the song there, at the former Simpson Tavern, now 19 High Street in the center of Medford Square. According to the Medford Historical Society, the song was inspired by the town's popular sleigh races during the 1800s.

"Jingle Bells" was originally copyrighted with the name "One Horse Open Sleigh" on September 16, 1857. It was reprinted in 1859 with the revised title of "Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh". The song's copyright status has since passed into public domain.

Music historian James Fuld notes that "the word jingle in the title and opening phrase is apparently an imperative verb." However, it is commonly taken to mean a certain kind of bell.

Lyrics

The first verse and chorus are the most well-remembered sections of "Jingle Bells":

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bobtails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight!
[Chorus]
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Although less well-known than the opening, the remaining verses depict high-speed youthful fun. In the second verse, the narrator takes a ride with a girl and loses control of the sleigh:

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.
[Chorus]

In the next verse (which is often skipped), he falls out of the sleigh and a rival laughs at him:

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.
[Chorus]

In the last verse, after relating his experience, he gives equestrian advice to a friend, who then picks up some girls, finds a faster horse, and takes off at full speed:

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.
[Chorus]

Original lyrics

The 1857 lyrics differed slightly from those we know today. It is unknown who replaced the words with those of the modern version.

Dashing through the snow,
In a one-horse open sleigh,
O'er the hills we go,
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bobtail ring,
Making spirits bright,
Oh what sport to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.
[Chorus]
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
O what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we got upset
[Chorus]
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
[Chorus]
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 is his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! You'll take the lead.
[Chorus]

Appearances in Christmas specials

Album releases

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