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The History and Tradition of Christmas Bells

You cannot talk about the sounds of Christmas without mentioning Christmas Bells.

Christmas Bells have been around for a long time and are one of the most commonly held traditions. These bells can range from midnight bells that are rung at midnight from the local church in a small city to Santa’s sleigh bells jingling on the rooftops as he bellows out MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It is impossible to imagine Christmas without hearing or thinking of the many different bells we hear throughout the season.

How did Christmas Bells become so popular? Where did they originate?

Like many of the Christmas customs and traditions, there is an interesting history behind the origins of Christmas Bells.

Christmas Bells


Bells became a popular form of communication in the Middle Ages. 

Usually, the largest building in the city was the church and within the church was a bell. This bell would be ringing for a variety of reasons but each reason centered around communication. Bells would be used to communicate the time of day, the arrival of important persons, important announcements, the beginning and end of various events, and they would also be used to announce special celebrations.

Like many of the traditions around Christmas, bells were first used in pagan winter festivals with the purpose of protecting the people of the city from evil spirits. As Christianity gained influence the use of bells changed from a pagan purpose to a Christian one. The infamous St. Patrick would often use bells to signify the beginning and end of his lessons. 

In the Catholic Church, Mass is only allowed to be held at Midnight twice a year and that would be at Christmas and Easter. At each of these midnight masses, Christmas bells are ringing while the Priest says the “Gloria”

This tradition dates back to the early church because it is believed that Jesus Christ was born at midnight. This is just speculation as we do not know the exact time and the Bible does not tell us, however, the Christmas story of Jesus suggests that it occurred at night. Since it is believed that Christ was born in the evening the Christian church uses this time to have communion to celebrate the event of his birth.

Bells were often incorporated throughout the worship services within Protestant and Catholic services.

Modern Times

Today Christmas Bells are used in both Christian and secular cultures.

There are many different songs that speak of bells some of the most popular are the following:

  • Silver Bells
  • Carol of the Bells
  • Jingle Bells
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
  • Sleigh Ride
  • Ding Dong Merrily On High
  • Caroling Caroling
  • Here Comes Santa Claus
  • Winter Wonderland

Many Children will perform with handbells at school performances which have been a Christmas staple for decades. 

Over time, Bells have evolved to become more than just a tool to communicate with folks in the community. The use of bells has become common in Christmas Music, Christmas Movies, and many other Christmas functions.

Christmas Bells can be seen on light posts that light up the streets at night, are hung on many Christmas trees, and can be heard in every house in America that celebrates Christmas.

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