Subversive Carols: Jingle Bells

This series will interpret our beloved Christmas and Advent carols not as sentimental songs, but as a challenge to the status quo. Many of these subversive themes are already found in the lyrics, yet are often not pointed out. Enjoy the 12 days of Subversive Carols!

“Jingle Bells” by James Lord Pierpont

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, 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

“Jingle Bells” was the first carol I was taught as a child. I could somewhat relate to the snow covered fields since I lived in a rural town in Western Maryland where snowfall started in November and ended sometime in April. Anyway, the melody is simple enough for anyone to learn. Upon investigating this carol to see if any subversive themes would poke their head through the crowd, I was left with nothing. Rather, I discovered that it was originally written as a Thanksgiving song and was the first song sung in space! And as hopefully you have already watched, YouTube animals love “Jingle Bells” as well.

Yet, other than its simple melody, why is this carol so beloved?

Well, because it is a song of freedom! Even more than that, it spells out the freedom found in emancipatory revolutionary politics. The opening lines “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh,” has the rider exposed to the natural world. No longer is the rider alienated from the rest of existence; instead, snow is flying in her face, her scarf is blowing in the wind, and she is one with all that is around her.

In emancipatory revolutionary politics, we are free to be human. Free from the structures that oppress. Free from bosses, cops, and all authority figures. The rider in “Jingle Bells” experiences life to its utmost fullest. She can sing, laugh, and play in the snow because she does not need to worry about laws imposed on her from higher ups. Her laughter echoes throughout the land. She is free.

It’s joy that reverses Empires from their ways of rationalism and control and sets Capitalism on its destructive head!

Jingle Bells


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