‘Jingle Bells’ and a Thanksgiving turkey
Greetings from the Ridge.
It wasn’t the first time a minister had frowned at me. We have this custom in our church where, rather than listing the hymns in the bulletin, the lay leader asks the congregation to shout out what they want to sing, and whenever Thanksgiving nears I holler “Jingle Bells!” Those who’ve attended our church for a number of years just chuckle and shake their heads at this bit of silliness, but it’s often disconcerting to a new pastor. After the service I explain to him or her that “Jingle Bells” was written as a Thanksgiving song and makes no mention of Christmas. I don’t further discombobble his mind by adding that there’s a plaque in Medford, Massachusetts, indicating the spot where the song was written by James Pierpont. At that time the building was a tavern and drinkers would often jingle the ice in their glasses on the chorus.
I remember that story every time a legislator or organization tries to change our national anthem from “The Star Spangled Banner” to something else. Defenders of our present national tune quickly come to its rescue, noting the song’s long heritage and connection with our country. Actually, it didn’t become our national hymn until Herbert Hoover signed it into immortality in 1931. Our sacred melody was borrowed from a London men’s club known for its drinking and odes to love. This group of very wealthy British businessmen had a high old time with their bawdy songs until the Duchess of Devonshire attended one of their meetings and the singers censored their lewd lyrics. The records show that the members then dissolved the club, no longer able to revel in their wicked words.