my favorite carols, part two: jingle bells

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Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas

This year, my little sister Molly (AKA "Guatemolly") will be in Central America on the special day. I don't know how she'll celebrate - putting extra lard in the Christmas beans, taking an extra hour to steal wireless internet.

She'll be spending Christmas with more orphans than Daddy Warbucks and Miss Hannigan combined, though it is unlikely they'll sing about a New Deal for Christmas. They would probably call him "Papa Guerradolares", however.

When I was in middle school, my Spanish class received a handout with Spanish-language Christmas carols, which I proceeded to sing incessantly in front of my little sisters. By far, the greatest of these was Spanish-language "Jingle Bells":

Cascabeles, cascabeles
Tra la la la la
Qué alegría
Todo el día y Felicidad

Loosely translated, that's, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, tra la la la la, such joy all day, and happiness." I can only assume that there are no sleighs in Mexico.

This was such a hit that I had presents addressed to "Spanish King" for at least two years. So it was to my great delight that I learned that Guatemolly was singing carols with her orphan charges

Cascabel, cascabel,
Música de amor.
Dulces horas, gratas horas,
Juventud en flor.

Cascabel, cascabel,
Tan sentimental.
No ceces, oh cascabel,
De repiquetear

Roughly, that's, "Jingle bell, jingle bell, music of love. Sweet hours, pleasing hours, youth in flower. Jingle bell, jingle bell, so sentimental. Don't stop ringing, jingle bell."

The simplicity of "Jingle Bells" allows for a variety of interpretations. Our primary Christmas albums growing up were:

1. A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
2. The Andy Williams Christmas Album
3. Merry Christmas From Sesame Street (which appears to be out of print, and the new version is unfortunately infested with Elmo.)


Each album has its own spin on "Jingle Bells". Frank goes for a swinging version, with backup singers announcing their love of "J-I-N-G-L-E, B-E-double-L-S". For Sesame Street, Herry Monster thinks the song is about "crashing through the snow", but his favorite carol is "Wreck the Halls", so what do you expect? Andy Williams has, "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells", an expanded, brassy version that includes the line, "From the top of the chimney to the top of the world!"

It's the most populist of carols: secular, malleable, and easily translatable. My favorite recent version comes from Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons. If nothing else, it is the definitive NBA rendition of "Jingle Bells". Remix!

1 Comment

I've never understood why we have to stop singing songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" after Christmas. Songs like these have nothing to do with Christmas. They're about Winter.

I mean, we can listen to Tori Amos' song "Winter" all year round, right? Not that we should because it's a really depressing song, but still.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on December 20, 2007 3:22 PM.

my favorite carols, part 1: i'll be home for christmas was the previous entry in this blog.

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