“Jingle Bells,” originally “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 (1822–1893) 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.
As originally published, the song had a different melody as its chorus part, which was less joyful and more classical, Mozart-like sounding. It is unknown who replaced the chorus with its modern version.
“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. Contacting Mission Control with a 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.”
In Ontario (a province in Canada), sleigh bells are mandated by law, and persons breaking the law are subject to a $5 fine. The law states: “Every person traveling on a highway with a sleigh or sled drawn by a horse or other animal shall have at least two bells attached to the harness or to the sleigh or sled in such a manner as to give ample warning sound.”
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