Though most well known because of the Christmas song of the same name, jingle are actually a specific type of bell. These are almost global in design, with a cutout at the bottom of the orb, usually in the symbol of an “X” or cross. Inside the orb, a metallic ball bounces freely to create the jingling sound of these bells.
Jingle are most often associated with the Christmas holiday, even though the song “Jingle Bells” was originally written as part of a Thanksgiving program in 1857. The song was an instant hit and performed again that year as part of a Christmas program. It has been the quintessential Christmas song since then.
Per the song, the jingle were used to decorate the horses’ harnesses as part of a sleigh ride. In some regions of Canada where sleighs are still used as winter transportation, the law even requires that the sleighs be fitted with that jingle with movement.
Once jingle became affiliated with the Christmas holiday, they became a bit of a Christmas icon, used in many different manners. It is not unusual to see jingle replace doorbells during the Christmas holidays or to see them used as a musical instrument in children’s plays during winter productions.
Generally, jingle are silver and attached to something, often a red velvet ribbon that can easily be shaken to cause their telltale tinkling. Jingle have a much more high-pitched and soft sound than a standard bell, more of a tinkle than a gong.
In later years,
the song “Jingle Bells” has often been parodied by children and adults alike. The original song talks of a young man who takes a young woman for a ride in his sleigh only to have the sleigh turn over in a snow bank. Later verses describe the young man’s rival laughing at his misfortune and the final verse speaks of betting on a fast horse that is attached to the sleigh.
In addition to the parodies, the song “Jingle Bells” also inspired later secular Christmas tunes including “Jingle Bell Rock”.
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