‘Jingle Bells’: A Thanksgiving Ballad

People love to complain about the Christmas creep — the idea that Christmas, as represented by holiday music and green and red stuff begins a little bit earlier every year. (The Christmas creep could, but generally does not, refer to some weirdo lurking about in late December.)

One area this criticism doesn’t apply, to be entirely historically accurate, is in the song “Jingle Bells,” which was originally penned to celebrate Thanksgiving.  TIME explains:

In 1857, James Lord Pierpont, an organist at a Unitarian church in Savannah, Georgia, published the music and lyrics to a song he had written, “The One Horse Open Sleigh.” The song was first performed during a Thanksgiving concert at the church — but many maintain that it was written as early as 1850, when Pierpont lived in the village of Medford, Massachusetts. (In fact, a longstanding, and rather civil war, has been waged between these two towns over the “real” birthplace of the song.)

The song was re-published in 1857 and was given the title we all know today. Neither version made any impression on the public — it took several generations for “Jingle Bells” to become a holiday favorite.

The song’s punk kid brother “Jingle Bell Rock” was written as a Christmas song in 1957, though like it’s predecessor it does not explicitly refer to Christmas time in its lyrics. Come to think of it, it’s not real clear what its lyrics are about except snowing and blowing and some damn horse.

photo credit: Lindsey Turner, Creative Commons/flickr