Friday, December 21, 2012

Jingling, and Wondering, All the Way


He was rebellious young man who defied his father, became a sailor , mined gold...and ended up finding fame as the composer of one of our most loved Christmas songs.

 
Born in 1822 in Medford, Massachusetts to a minister and his wife, James Pierpoint ran away from home at 14. His parents were abolitionists but he did not share their views. He wandered the world, working as a sailor on the Pacific Ocean and mining gold in California before eventually returning to Medford, marrying and becoming a father. When his wife passed away in 1853 he left New England and moved to Savannah, Georgia where he spent the remainder of his life. He served in the Confederate Army and is buried in Savannah, his adopted home.

So when did he write his song about sleigh bells, horses and snow? Scholars have never been able to pinpoint the exact date. Savannah claims the song was written there as a nostalgic remembrance of his youth, and certainly it was copyrighted in 1857 while Pierpoint was living in Savannah. But other records point to an earlier date and say that Pierpoint played the song in the 1840’s for a church gathering in Medford. Both Medford and Savannah have erected signs claiming the song was written in their town. To me, it seems odd that Pierpoint would have written a song about snow and sleighbells while living in the sunny south which he had come to love.

Pierpoint himself claimed he wrote the song for a Thanksgiving service, not for Christmas. According to the story, his father asked him to compose something to be used for the service on Thanksgiving Day. No inspiration struck until Pierpoint looked out the window and saw young people playing in the snow. Fact or fiction? Who knows? It’s just one more part of the mystery of the origins of “dashing all the way."
Do you know all the verses? Here they are:
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
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 then we got upsot

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh yeah

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

 Not one word about Christmas, Jesus' birth, Santa, Christmas trees or any of the things we normally associate with the holiday. And yet, doesn't singing it get you in the spirit of the season? So thank you, Mr. Pierpoint, for the smiles and laughter your song has brought to so many generations.


Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

3 comments:

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Fanny Bright was a lucky gal! ;)

Bright Blessing to you, luv!

*hugs*

Mimi

Mamabug said...

I've always loved this song and now I know the story behind it. Merry Christmas dear friend and a very happy new year!

Sue said...

Never heard about this one. Thanks!

=)

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