It’s Christmas and try thinking of Christmas without bells.
Whether it s “Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…” as Julia Andrews sang in the legendary film The Sound of Music, or the ubiquitous “Jingle Bells” song that rings in our ears all the way through Christmas, it’s amazing how Christmas and bells go together.
And yet that’s not all what bells are for!
Traditionally bells were used just to create noise in the dark winter nights to ward off strange animals and metaphorically evil spirits.
Later that graduated into ringing bells as a celebratory sound.
For Christmas, in some churches in the UK, it is traditional that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. Celebrating the birth of Christ.
And then there's celebrating the joyous union of two souls. At a wedding. More bells. More wedding bells.
And to complete the cycle is what John Donne never fails to remind us of. "Therefore, send not to know/For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."
The Hindus ring a bell when they enter a temple. Not to wake the Lord. Not because the Divine is busy elsewhere and you need to attract his attention. But because the bell creates that primordial sound of Om. Go deeper into it and there’s a lot to learn – including the metals that the bell is made of, the seven seconds of sound that a ring of the bell creates, resonating through the Chakras and finally the really tangible reason – to wake up our consciousness before we enter the place of worship.
Moving away from the temple of worship to the temple of learning, there was Pavlov and his bell. Pavlov took his bell ringing to an entirely different level with Druzhok, Zolotisty, Sultan, Tygan, Zhuchka and the others. The poor Pavlovian dogs never ever associated the bell with Christmas. Sigh. Or rather woof!
In school, saved by the bell was a memorable classroom situation that most of us have been in. Today, a phone call pretty much does it.
And for years music has paid tribute to the bell.
Today’s young lovers will not get it if they hear what Anita Ward has to say about the bell. But they can well learn.
And then Abba asked for a ring…
And coming back a full circle to where we began, there is this beautiful hymn, which I discovered has found its origins in H.W.Longfellow’s poem, I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Enjoy it while you can, because another 5 days and we’ll be ringing out the old and ringing in the new!
And as the hymn says:
Peace on earth, goodwill to men!