“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” features lyrics penned by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His original poem titled “Christmas Bells” was written in 1864 in the midst of the American Civil War and much personal strife. Longfellow’s words of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” still ring true today as we strive to find peace in the midst of a chaotic world.
On Christmas Day 1864, the American Civil War raged. American poet and philosopher Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived in a time of chaos. Two years prior, Longfellow lost his beloved wife Fanny in an accidental house fire, he himself still recovering from burn wounds suffered as he tried to save her. Longfellow’s son, Charles, had just returned home from the war’s front lines, convalescing from a gunshot wound to his back. Longfellow’s world was dark, the outlook bleak.
As poets so often do when faced with an existential crisis, Longfellow took his pen to paper. The words to his poem sprang forth:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Verse after verse, Longfellow used creative flow to move his inner turmoil closer to resolution and peace. Most notable of Longfellow’s words is the repeated ringing of the bells, chiming “Peace on earth, goodwill to men!” Just as bells chime in equal time, each stanza repeats this idea of inner equanimity.
Have you ever noticed how repetition allows our physiology to relax? Repeating a word, phrase, or idea is much like a mother gently rocking her child, shifting between motion and stillness.
When Longfellow repeats the phrase “peace on earth, good will to men”, we witness a self-soothing effect. The idea of “peace on earth” is seen as a constant, present in all moments both good and bad.
Eventually, he lands in a grounded declaration, affirming peace begins within – “for wrong shall fail, and right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
We have the ability – the power – to choose all of our thoughts, we also have the ability to directly influence our body’s physiology with our mind.
For instance, gratitude is shown to decrease blood pressure. Happiness increases our immune response. Peace allows us to move with less pain. In fact, connecting positively with others has been correlated to create an “upward spiral” of positive emotions in our own bodies.
Sometimes the easiest choices are the most powerful.
As a bustling season approaches, gift yourself a moment to pause and let this music move you. Feel peace in your world, then spread this feeling to others. It’s the best holiday gift you can give. Listen to Charleene Closshey’s holiday hit turned evergreen favorite of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.
Be sure to explore new sounds of classic Christmas music by Charleene Closshey now!