The History of Sleigh BellsThe rhythmic sound of ringing sleigh bells brings with it the images of the winter sleigh rides, falling snowflakes and the memories of Christmas. Sleigh bells have been around for a long time and while we associate them with the holiday season, their creation came about from the world of horses.
Sleigh bells can be found everywhere but they were originally only used with horses, but not during winter sleigh rides. These bells were found by archaeologists in England. The earliest ones found dated back to the time when the Romans lived in the British Isles. This discovery leads to the understanding that the bells were used as a part of the horse harness more than one thousand years ago. At that time the bells were a valuable symbol of high social status and wealth. They were made from silver and gold and were used as decoration on horses during Medieval age wars. The bells were also to believed to provide good luck and to keep away illnesses and evil spirits.
The specific date that sleigh bells became common place on wagons, and in particular on winter sleigh rides, is not known. It is believed that they were used both as decoration and as a functional device. The ringing bells would serve as a safety device, alerting people of a moving or oncoming wagon on foggy and dark nights. Horse drawn wagons are extremely difficult to stop and a sleigh could easily injury someone who was unaware of their movement.
It was in the nineteenth century that a demand for sleigh bells developed. The bells were produced in amounts in East Hampton, Connecticut. The popularity of the bells grew throughout the country and were used to decorate racing sleighs as well as on wagons that were used for winter sleigh rides. It was the popular Christmas song, Jingle Bells, that brought the sleigh bells to incredible popularity. The song described the experience of wonderful winter sleigh rides.
Today sleigh bells are used to decorate and to create a sense of celebration. They are still hung from many horse drawn wagons that provide winter sleigh rides. There are many people collect antique sleigh bells that were manufactured in the mid nineteenth century, cherishing the skill used to create them and the time in which they were produced.