I usually hear these bells only in December, but at their first jingle I am transported to
I “jingle all the way” back to the days of my Christmas caroling on horseback.
The annual Christmas party at Knack’s stable was always held on the Saturday before Christmas. It was a small gathering of “horse crazy” girls consisting of: two high school barn workers, two lucky teenagers that owned their own horses, and a couple of preteen, self-appointed apprentices.
(My friend Lucy and I fit the last category.)
Lucy and I were so “horse crazy” that frigid temperatures were nothing compared to the one-on-one time we had with a barn full of horses. We learned everything about horse care by spending every Saturday, dawn to dusk, working in the barn.
The winter months were the best!
We even got to exercise the horses!
On the Saturday of the Christmas party we arrived at daybreak and rushed through the morning chores: hay, grain, water, and clean the stalls.
We took a quick break at noon to warm our frozen toes and gulp down a sandwich before racing back to the barn to prepare our mounts for caroling.
(We apprentices were thrilled to be allowed to ride one of the stable mounts. For free!)
Rushing to our assigned horse, we threw the heavy horse blanket over the stall boards, brushed, and tacked our horse with lightning speed.
Then the decorating began.
Garland, bows, ribbons, and yes, lots of jingle bells were woven, draped, and braided into manes, tails, and bridles. Peals of laughter erupted from the stalls all over the barn as each rider shouted out their brilliant fashion ideas, trying to outdo one another.
Decorations completed, we bumped about in front of the barn until everyone was mounted. Our usually sedate horses demonstrated the high spirits of the occasion. They twisted and turned, tossed their heads, stomped their hooves, and clouded the air with streams of vapor from their nostrils. With each movement the jingling of bells grew louder until the tumult of sound and joy could wait no longer.
Off pranced the jubilant parade with hooves tapping out an energetic beat on the main street as the DIY pageant streamed forward.
“JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE ALL THE WAY!”
We sang over our horses’ ears.
“HO! HO! HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
Shouted, Becky, our Santa, complete in suit and beard. She brought up the rear on the docile gray mare whose flowing white mane and tail matched the bushy white beard Becky kept adjusting on her face.
Up and down the unpaved side streets we brought our Christmas caroling parade.
The jingle of our bells brought families out to share our joy and Christmas cheer, even when our voices grew faint.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY!