Though jingle bells is probably the most widely known cultural contribution to our Christmas celebrations made by a Unitarian Universalist James Pierpont, the songs author, is hardly an ideal representative of our religious tradition. He spent his life pushing away from his respected Brahmin family and his Unitarian Father with his fierce loyalty to the cause of abolition. James ran away from home while still young and spends time on a whaling ship and later as part of the Navy. He marries and fathers two children but quickly leaves them in the care of his own father while he heads out west in search of gold but finding none remains and tried to make a go of it as a photographer. Eventually he returns the plan being for him to work as the music director for his brother who has just been called to serve a new Unitarian congregation in Savannah georgia. When his brother eventually has to leave and the church closes its doors because of the public outcry over the abolitionism of the church and its minister. James however stays in the south and since at this point his first wife has passed away he re-marries a girl from a prominent family. He never sends for his children and leaves them to the care of his father devoting himself to his new wife and his children from this second marriage. He takes up arms with the confederacy and is commissioned by Jefferson Davis himself to write a number of pieces of music. After the war he takes a job as the church musician with a presbyterian church in Florida. Jingle Bells was not a big money maker for him like “the Colored Coquette” and his various songs written to be performed in minstrel shows. So it was a very intentional decision on my part to try and underplay the idea of Pierpont as the author and composer and focus instead on the role of the Sunday School Children from the Unitarian church in Savannah and the idea that Jinglebells is first performed as part of an event sponsored and put on by an historic UU congregation.
To see other days in The Original Unitarian Universalist Advent Calendar or to download your own print ready PDF of the calendar just follow the links. For additional resources that can be used together with the Advent Calendar follow the link to a folder on my google drive.