Victorians—One Horse Open Sleigh

one horse open sleigh
The title for the Christmas carol we know as ‘Jingle Bells’ was originally ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’ written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont. The chorus originally was slightly different and more classical  than what we  have today.  You can hear it on the video below the lyrics which also explains that it was written originally as a Thanksgiving song.  However, the song worked better as a Christmas song because it was part of Victorian tradition to go on either sleigh rides or carriages in the city or hay rides in the country on Christmas eve.  On hay rides, the passengers would drink hot apple cider and sing Christmas carols. 
Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bobtail 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.
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
He got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot.

|: chorus 😐
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 😐
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls tonight
and sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bobtailed bay
Two forty as his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you’ll take the lead.
When the sun set on Christmas eve, everyone would enter the parlour as that was the time to tell ghost stories.  It was the tradition to throw some sticks into the fire.  The person telling the story would have to make the tale last until the sticks stopped burning.  Afterwards, it was time for the evening mass or church service such as the midnight mass. 

How Do We Incorporate Victorian Christmas Eve Traditions

I am a firm believer in taking inspiration for family traditions and then slightly altering them to fit one’s own family.  Children LOVE traditions and they don’t have to be complicated.  We have had different traditions over the years.  We have done Advent calendars and Advent wreaths and watched Christmas movies on TV.  We sang Christmas carols at home as a family and made ornaments and decorated the tree.  On Christmas Eve, our current tradition is to have a big meal and to open one gift, their pyjamas (so they could wear something new and fresh on Christmas Eve) or their stocking or last year it was their hand-made gifts we all made for each other. Perhaps, in Victorian tradition, I’ll tell them a ghost story this year…perhaps the Christmas story, perhaps both.  We don’t have a sleigh (or any snow for that matter) or a horse-drawn carriage but perhaps we’ll take a wintry walk or drive to look at Christmas lights.  What new traditions will you start this Christmas Eve?


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