We all know the classic Christmas song “Jingle Bells” —or at least we think that we do. Dr. Kyna Hamill of Boston University has been looking into the origins of this beloved holiday classic, and what she’s discovered about its creator and its first known public performance may cause us to look at the song in a rather different light.

Playbill for minstrel show at Ordway Hall in Boston. The program
included "One Horse Open Sleigh," the song that we've come to
know as "Jingle Bells." Image via Harvard University's Houghton
Library, Harvard Theatre Collection, American Minstrel Show


  • Learn more about Kyna’s research into the history of “Jingle Bells” here.
  • Read Kyna’s previous work for HowlRound.
  • Explore the Harvard Theatre Collection’s material on minstrel shows and read this short description of its contents.
  • Listen to an early album of Christmas music that contains the first known recording of the song that we now refer to as “Jingle Bells” (note: it’s track #3, listed as “Sleigh Ride Party”).
  • Find out more about Two Roads Performance Projects (co-founded by Kyna), which supports the creation of public art such as a play based on the work Kyna has done at the Medford Historical Society (which also led to her research on “Jingle Bells”).

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