By THE ENTHUSIAST
Bird Is The Word
"Jingle Bells" is almost certainly the first song that pops into your head when you hear the words "Christmas carol," but shockingly enough, it wasn’t written to be a Christmas song, nor is the holiday mentioned. It was intended to be a Thanksgiving song. Thanksgiving! It’s like discovering that "Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail" was written to celebrate Bastille Day.
This Round’s On Me
The Enthusiast finds it especially endearing that "Jingle Bells" was written in a pub – the Simpson Tavern in Medford, Massachusetts. The saloon is long gone, alas, but a plaque out front tells the tale:
"Jingle Bells" composed here. On this site stood the Simpson Tavern where in 1850 James Pierpont wrote the song "Jingle Bells" in the presence of Mrs. Otis Waterman, who later verified the song was written here.
Savannah, Georgia, however, has its own plaque. Folks there whisper that Mrs. Otis Waterman was nothing but a typical lying Yankee. Pierpont moved to Savannah from Medford, you see, and it was there that "Jingle Bells" was published and first performed. As a local historian from Savannah named Hugh Golson put it, “He might have had some ditty going in his head, but he never cleaned it up or got it in suitable form to mail in to the publishers until 1857." Fighting words if ever The Enthusiast has heard them!
Check it out: "Jingle Bells" is the first song ever beamed to the earth from space. Gemini 6 astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford played the song for Mission Control on harmonica and bells on December 16th, 1965. And if you think The Enthusiast is just making stuff up now, you’re encouraged to go take a look at those bells and that harmonica at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum.
Hatfields & McCoys
The third verse of "Jingle Bells" is rarely performed, doubtless because the scene it depicts is more than a little lacking in the milk of human kindness:
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.
Surely the fellow flat on his back hailed from Massachusetts, and the gent riding by from Georgia.
Number twelve in a series.
12 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.