Well, as happy and innocent as it may sound, this one might take you be surprise.
Professor Kyna Habil, a Boston University theater historian has asserted that “Jingle Bells” has racist roots because it was first performed in Blackface as a part of a minstrel show in the 19th century in Boston.
“The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is one where its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history,” wrote Hamill in a research paper that is making waves.
Hamill began researching the origins of Jingle Bells to help settle a dispute between Medford, Massachusetts and Savannah, Georgia – both of which claim to be the place where James Lord Pierpont composed the song. In the course of her research, Hamill discovered a playbill indicating that Jingle Bells was first performed under the title One Horse Open Sleigh in blackface, for a minstrel show at Ordway Hall on Boston’s Washington Street in 1857.
“Its origins emerged from the economic needs of a perpetually unsuccessful man, the racial politics of antebellum Boston, the city’s climate, and the intertheatrical repertoire of commercial blackface performers moving between Boston and New York,” Hamill wrote in her paper.
“Although ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’, for most of its singers and listeners, may have eluded its racialized past and taken its place in the seemingly unproblematic romanticization of a normal “white” Christmas, attention to the circumstances of its performance history enables reflection on its problematic role in the construction of blackness and whiteness in the United States,” she wrote.
Her claims, published in September, have attracted furious reaction from some who see them as an attack on Christmas traditions.