Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Bringing and Ringing in the New Year by Kimberly Grist

Do we bring in or ring in the new year? I've often wondered which phrase was correct. Ringing in refers to the days when churches often made announcements by ringing their bells.

A poem written in 1850 called "Ring out, Wild Bells" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, suggested specific ways to change the world for the better by ringing out the negatives and ringing in positive things. 

Bringing in the new year also creates the image of a new beginning. Another poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired by church bells ringing.  
In July 1836, Fanny Appleton was in Switzerland in the middle of a Grand Tour with her family. 

Henry Longfellow was a college professor and published author, traveling in preparation for his new position as Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard. He joined the Appleton family traveling around the Swiss Alps where he began courting Fannie. 

Fannie was not interested in marriage. But Longfellow was determined and finally seven years later, Fannie agreed and they were married in 1843. Fanny's brother Tom summarized their courtship: "She is a nature that ripens late. And she will be far happier than if she married earlier. With her to be understood and to understand is love."

Nathan Appleton bought the Craigie House, which George Washington occupied as his headquarters in 1775 and gave to Henry and Fanny for a wedding present.
Fanny and Henry Longfellow had six children. She is pictured with sons Charles and Ernest.
Tragically in 1861, Longfellow's beloved wife of eighteen years died after her dress caught on fire. Longfellow was unable to attend her funeral due to the extensive burns he received attempting to save her. His facial injuries caused him to stop shaving. He wore a beard from then on which became his trademark.

In March 1863, Longfellow's oldest son Charley, left home unannounced to travel to join the Union Army. On December 1, 1863, Henry received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded while involved in a skirmish during the battle of the Mine Run Campaign.

On Christmas day in 1863, Longfellow a 57-year-old widowed father of six children heard the Christmas bells proclaiming "peace on earth" and wrote, "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day."

The poem was first published in 1865. Longfellow's despair can be felt in its message, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

The conclusion of the poem and song is the message of renewed hope. The powerful message resonates with many who are dealing with feelings of loss, worry and or grief during the holiday season.
Set to music in 1872, the song would later be called, "The Civil War Christmas Song" and continues to be popular. The song with background photos taken during the Civil War can be viewed here:
 I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day with historical background photos

About Kimberly Grist:

"Kim has enjoyed writing since she was a young girl. However, she began writing her first novel in 2017, "I wear so many hats working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life just stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome." 
Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends and Good Clean Fun. 

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post about two Christmas/New Year hymns. Where I go to church, we sang both of them the Sunday after Christmas. It was nice to know the history of them, particularly, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I know some people have commented they consider it a dreary Christmas carol. It makes all the difference to understand the historical setting of this song. Christmas in 1863 during the American Civil War is, unfortunately, not the only time we must face dreary and depressing circumstances on the day most Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I love that song. I didn't know it had been written during the Civil War, though.

  3. I enjoyed your post, Kimberly! I had no idea :) Blessings!