The Moving Story Behind ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’

‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ is a beloved Christmas carol that has touched the hearts of many for over 150 years. The story behind this beautiful song is one of hope, resilience, and the enduring power of faith.


The song was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most famous poets in American history. Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine in 1807, and became a prominent figure in the literary world during the 19th century. He was known for his poetry and fiction, and his works have been widely read and admired for their beauty and insight.

Longfellow wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” in 1863, during a time of great turmoil and division in the United States. The country was in the midst of the Civil War, and the conflict had taken a heavy toll on Longfellow’s personal life. In 1861, his wife Fanny died in a tragic accident, and just a few years later, his son Charles was severely injured in the war.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Despite these personal tragedies, Longfellow remained resilient and found solace in his faith. He was deeply inspired by the Christmas season and the message of hope and peace that it brings. In “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Longfellow expresses his desire for peace and reconciliation and his belief that one day, all will be made right in the world.

The song begins with the lines:

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!

These lines capture the joy and hope that Longfellow feels at Christmas, despite the difficulties he has faced.

The song then goes on to describe the bells ringing out across the land, bringing news of peace and joy to all who hear them. Longfellow writes:

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth,’ I said
‘For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

In these lines, Longfellow reflects on the pain and suffering that he has witnessed in the world, and expresses his frustration that peace seems so elusive. But he does not despair for long, as he is reminded of the enduring power of faith:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

These lines convey Longfellow’s belief that, despite all the struggles and hardships that we face, there is always hope for a better future. He believes that, through faith and determination, we can overcome any obstacle and create a world of peace and love.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, and it continues to be a beloved Christmas carol to this day. Its message of hope and resilience is as relevant today as it was when Longfellow first wrote it, and it serves as a reminder that, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we can always find strength and inspiration in our faith. So, this is the story behind the beautiful and inspiring Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Today, ‘I Heard the Bells’ movie actress Rachel Day Hughes performs a beautiful cover of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” in the music video.

WATCH: Actress Rachel Day Hughes sings ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’

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