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The commemorative plaque for James Lord Pierpont and his Jingle Bells in Savannah, Georgia

"Jingle Bells" is one of the best known and commonly sung winter songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and copyrighted under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" on September 16, 1857. Despite being inextricably connected to Christmas, it is not specifically a Christmas song.



When James Lord Pierpont's song was originally published in 1857,[1] it had a different chorus melody, which was more classical, even Mozart-like.[citation needed] The 1857 lyrics differed slightly from those we know today. (The original words are given below in square brackets.) It is unknown who replaced the chorus melody and the words with those of the modern version. The song was reprinted in 1859 with the revised title of "Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh".[2]

The first verse and chorus are the most often sung (and remembered) section 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 bobtaila[›] ring (Or Hear our voices ring)
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing (Or What fun it is to ride and sing / Oh, what fun it is to sing)
A sleighing song tonight
|: Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun [joy] it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun [joy] it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.:|

Music historian James Fuld notes that the "the word jingle in the title and opening phrase is apparently an imperative verb."[2] However, it is commonly taken to mean a certain kind of bell.

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 [And we—we] got upsot.b[›]
|: chorus :|

In the next verse (which is often skipped), he falls out of the sleigh and a rival laughs at him: Note the incorrect form of the verb "lie". The event is being told using the past tense and should be "lay". (Cf. the list of commonly misused English words.)

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 fortyc[›] as [for] his speed
[and] Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you'll take the lead.
|: chorus :|

The "Jingle Bells" tune is used in French and German songs, although the lyrics are unrelated to the English lyrics. Both celebrate winter fun. The French song, titled Vive le vent ("Long Live the Wind"), was written by Francis Blanche[3][4] and contains references to Father Time, Baby New Year, and New Year's Day. There are several German versions of "Jingle Bells"; the popular Roy Black version Christkindl and Christmastime.[5]


Sheet music notation for Jingle Bells

"Jingle Bells" was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898 on an Edison cylinder as part of a Christmas medley entitled "Sleigh Ride Party". The associated dialogue on this recording contains an early use of the term, "roadhouse". In 1902, the Hayden Quartet recorded "Jingle Bells".

In 1943, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters recorded "Jingle Bells" as Decca 23281 which reached No. 19 on the charts and sold over a million copies. In 1941, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Ernie Caceres and the Modernaires on vocals had a No. 5 hit with "Jingle Bells" on RCA Victor, as Bluebird 11353. In 1935, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra reached No. 18 on the charts with their recording of "Jingle Bells". In 1951, Les Paul had a No. 10 hit with a multi-tracked version on guitar. In 1955, Don Charles, from Copenhagen, Denmark, recorded a novelty version with dogs barking to the melody of "Jingle Bells" as RCA 6344, which sold a million copies.

Crosby sang an unusual pronunciation of "jingle". The word is typically rendered "jing-gull", with a hard "g" interposed. Crosby's version is "jing-ull", lacking the hard "g" sound.

"Jingle Bells" has been performed and recorded by Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Mike Horsfall, The Hoppers, Boney M, Longines Symphonette and Ann Hampton Callaway, among many others. In 2006, Kimberley Locke had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with a recording of "Jingle Bells".

"Jingle Bells"
Single by Kimberley Locke
from the album Christmas
Released 2006
Label Curb Records
Kimberley Locke singles chronology
"Up On the Housetop"
"Jingle Bells"
Diana Krall version
Charts (2005) Peak
US Adult Contemporary 5
Basshunter version
Charts (2006)/(2008) Peak
Swedish Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 41
Kimberley Locke version
Chart (2006) Peak
US Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 1

In space

"Jingle Bells" was the first song broadcast from space, in a Christmas-themed prank by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, December 16, 1965. They sent Mission Control this report:

We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit ... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit ...

The astronauts then produced a smuggled harmonica and sleighbells and broadcast a rendition of "Jingle Bells" (Smithsonian Magazine, December 2005 pp25ff). The harmonica, shown to the press upon their return, was a Hohner "Little Lady", a tiny harmonica approximately one inch long, by 3/8 of an inch wide.

Notable Recordings

Appearances in popular culture

  • The song is played during the Christmas party scene in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
  • A recording by The CSSR State Philharmonic featured in the film The Seeker (2007).
  • A recording by Brian Setzer Orchestra featured in the short film The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper (2005). This version recommends the virtues of riding in both a one-horse open sleigh and a '57 Chevrolet.
  • Poofer the Elf and the Smith family sang this song in "The Best Christmas Ever" while riding on Poofer's snowflake sleigh back home from Santa's Workshop to the Smiths' house. The lyrics are slightly modified to suit the mode of transportation and the location they're in.

Parodies and homages

Like many simple, catchy, and popular melodies, "Jingle Bells" is often the subject of parody. In addition to outright parody, many Christmas-themed songs use a snippet of notes from "Jingle Bells", usually from the beginning of the chorus, to establish a holiday theme. Some of these include:

  • "Yingle Bells" (Yogi Yorgesson) is a version in which the singer, using a mock-Scandinavian accent and suffering chillblains, laments that "I should have vorn long undervear in dat vone-horse open sleigh."
  • "Jingle Bell Rock" (Bobby Helms) — the best-known homage to "Jingle Bells", directly referencing the source song's lyrics. Originally recorded and released by Helms in a rockabilly style, "Jingle Bell Rock" has itself since become a Christmas standard.
  • "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (Elmo & Patsy), "Christmas Bells" (The Boulder Boys), "Santa Claus Is Watching You" (Ray Stevens), "Christmas in Hollis" (Run-DMC) — these and other Christmas novelty songs use variations of the "Jingle Bells" chorus as an opening; in addition, the chorus of "Grandma" uses slightly different chord patterns.
  • A well-known children's playground song uses the "Jingle Bells" melody of the parody of Batman:
Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg;
The Batmobile lost a wheel, (occasionally "Mr. Freeze cut the cheese")
And the Joker got away! (sometimes "Right on Christmas Day!", "And the Joker did ballet!" or "And Batman did ballet!" usually with a shout of "Hey!" at the end)
  • A slightly better rhyming version, often sung in the UK, goes as follows:
Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin flew away;
Kojak lost his lollipop,
But found a Milky Way

(Another version has the last two lines "Father Christmas lost his pants / On the M1 motorway.")

  • This particular version was sung (by the Joker himself — as voiced by Mark Hamill) in "Christmas with the Joker", an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. The Joker also adds the following verse while escaping Arkham Asylum, describing his way of escape (flying through a roof window on a Christmas tree with an secretly built-in rocket engine):
Crashing through the roof,
In a one horse open tree,
Busting out I go.
Laughing all the wee-he-he.
  • The title of Diane DeGroat's Christmas book in which Gilbert parodies the first line of the chorus; Jingle Bells, Homework Smells.
  • In the Scholastic children's novel Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. so does May.), Junie B. Jones sings the playground version listed above with the lyrics:
Jingle Bells,
Batman Smells,
P.S. So does May.
I'd push May right off the sleigh
And then I'd drive away.
  • U.S. schoolchildren in the 1960s commonly sang a different version:
Jingle bells,
Santa smells,
Easter's on its way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a beat up Chevrolet.
  • Children in the U.S., during and shortly after World War II, sang another version of the text:
Shingle nails,
Shingle nails,
Hammers, tacks and screws,
Oh what fun it is to ride,
In Hitler's stinking shoes.
  • a parody of the song is known in the Philippines. It involves household appliances, and cookware that are common in the said country:
Jingle bells,
Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way,
oh dustpan,
Electric fan,
kaldero at
Pinggan (hey!)
  • "Rusty Chevrolet", a novelty song by Michigan musical comedy group Da Yoopers, uses the melody of "Jingle Bells". The song, originally in their 1987 album Culture Shock, can also be found in their 1994 compilation For Diehards Only. The group performs "Rusty Chevrolet" year-round in concert, despite it being a Christmas song. This version ranked #17 in the nationally syndicated Dusty Rhodes Christmas Top 60 Countdown.
  • "Green Chri$tma$", a 1950s song produced by Stan Freberg, parodies excessive Christmastime advertising, and sings of dashing through the snow in a 50-foot "cou-pé ... selling all the way."
  • The 1963 song "Holiday Hootenanny" by Paul & Paula follows the same melody as "Jingle Bells", done to the beat of surf music.
  • Another parody has the verse: Dashing through the snow, on a pair of broken skis, crashing into trees, and a piece of moldy cheese (Ha Ha Ha), the snow is turning red, I think I'm nearly dead, and next I'm in the hospital with stitches in my head.
    • A variant of this is Dashing through the snow, on a pair of broken skis, o'er the hills we go, crashing into trees (boom crash pow), the snow is turning red, I think I'm almost dead, spending Christmas holiday in a hospital bed.
    • Another variant of this is Dashing through the snow, on a pair of broken skies, o'er the hills we go, crashing into cheese, the snow is turning red, I think I'm almost dead, please rush me to the hospital before I lose my head.
    • A slightly more morbid variant of this ends with the final line, Oh what fun it is to be like Michael Kennedy. (Kennedy died in a skiing accident on New Year's Eve, 1997.)
  • In the song "Christmas Medley" from the CD Pokémon Christmas Bash there's a pokémon-ish version of the original song with some pokémon like Rapidash, Horsea, Slowpoke, Slowbro, Bellsprout, Magnemite and Seaking in the lyrics.
  • Toward the end of A Christmas Story a group of waiters in a Chinese restaurant sing the chorus of this song to the Parker Family, of course mispronouncing some words as "Jinger Bears" and "shreigh", in a confusion of Asian stereotypes, as it is actually the Japanese who tend to convert L's to R's, whereas the L is a common vocal sound in Chinese.
  • Mike McCready of American rock band Pearl Jam recorded a version of "Jingle Bells" for the band's 2007 Christmas Single. This version just features the chorus melody, with McCready doing Chuck Berry-esque fills in between.
  • Although recorded by hundreds of artists, "Jingle Bells" in Kimberley Locke's 2006 version was the first to ever top Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
  • The main cast of the film Over the Hedge sing the song in a DVD extra, with Hami burping the alphabet and the first two verses.
  • The ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's character, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, sings the song "Jingle Bombs" (also parodying the name of other Christmas songs), where he describes his death, using many trademarks of his personality and job for the lyrics (the last verse containing his catchline, "I kill you!").
  • Barbra Streisand's "Jingle Bells?", on her 1967 album A Christmas Album, is a faster, sillier version of the original, arranged by Marty Paich. Streisand uses "upsot" effectively (and comedically) as a question.[6]
  • "Jingle Bells Metal",a Skid Row song, is a heavy-metal version of Jingle Bells.
  • In 2008, St Agnes Fountain (Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention, David Hughes, Julie Matthews & Chris While) recorded a version for their CD Soal Cake.
  • In an episode of Sponge Bob SquarePants, Mermaid Man, Barnacle Boy, and SpongeBob sing a parody, similar to the Batman version:
Jingle bells, Mermaid Man smells, Barnacle Boy laid an egg
The Invisible Boatmobile lost a wheel and Sponge Bob got away
  • Swedish Eurodance artist Basshunter, recorded a version of Jingle Bells, entitled "Jingle Bells (Bass)" in 2008.
Dashing through the snow,
Yoshi's in the sleigh,
Yoshi ate Bowser,
Bowser is dead!
Bowser's underground
with a tombstone on his head
Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi say "Hooray, he's dead!"
Jingle bells,
Mario smells,
Luigi laid an egg.
Mario Kart lost a wheel
and Bowser ran away!
  • Yet another school yard parody goes:

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is dead;
Rudolph took a .45 and shot him in the head!

  • A Halloween parody of the song, called "Pumpkin Bells", was made by Peanuts to celebrate Halloween and especially the Great Pumpkin.

Ac 65's version

Jingle Bells
Dodges Smell
Muscle Cars Are Great
Oh What Fun It Is To Drive In A Drop-Top Chevorlet

Possible birthplaces

  • A plaque commemorating the "birthplace" of "Jingle Bells" is placed on the side of a building in the center of Medford Square in Medford, Massachusetts.
  • In Savannah, Georgia, there is a marker commemorating the composition of "Jingle Bells" in a church where Pierpont served as music director.


Problems listening to these files? See media help.

See also


^ a: The horse's name is not "Bobtail" or "Bob". As can be seen from the linked scan (above) of the original from the Library of Congress, the horse is described as "bob tail" or "bob tailed." This refers to the tail as being "bobbed"—cut shorter or docked, which was commonly done to the tails of carriage horses to keep them neat and reduce the chance of the tail getting caught in the reins.
^ b: An archaic past participle of upset, in this instance meaning "capsized", but was also slang for "drunk or intoxicated", perhaps by association with the British term "sot" (drunkard).
^ c: Two forty refers to a mile in two minutes and forty seconds at the trot, or 22.5 miles per hour. This is a good speed, and suggests the horse should be a Standardbred.


  1. ^ "J. Pierpont, "One Horse Open Sleigh", Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., deposited 1857 with Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  2. ^ a b James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music, Fifth Edition, Dover Publications (New York), p. 313.
  3. ^ ""Vive le vent" (French chorus and literal English translation)". Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  4. ^ ""Vive le vent" (with verses and augmented refrain)". Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  5. ^ "Roy Black, "Jingle Bells" (German lyrics and literal English translation)". Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  6. ^ Barbra Streisand Archives: Records/A Christmas Album

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Jingle Bells
by James Pierpont
"Jingle Bells", originally "The One Horse Open Sleigh", is one of the best known and commonly sung secular Christmas songs in the world. It was written in 1857 by James Pierpont to be sung at a Thanksgiving program at his church in Boston, and was repeated at Christmas due to its instant popularity. The song has been translated into many languages.
— Excerpted from Jingle Bells on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

  Jingle bells, jingle bells
  Jingle all the way,
  Oh what fun it is to ride
  In a one-horse open sleigh, O
  Jingle bells, jingle bells
  Jingle all the way,
  Oh what fun 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 Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side;
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot,
We got into a drifted bank
And there we got upsot.


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.


Now the ground is white,
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
And sing this sleighing song.
Just get a bob-tailed bay,
Two-forty for his speed,
Then hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! You'll take the lead.


PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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