Here’s another ‘Can you believe it?’

A bit of writer history – one of my favorite things! – from Jerry Peterson.


Longfellow 05.Banner.Postage stamp

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote Christmas carols.

Well, at least one. And that one started out as a poem, not a carol.

Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” on Christmas Day 1863.

It became a carol only after English organist John Calkin set the poem to music in 1872.

Today, we know the carol as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

In 1863, we were deep in the American Civil War, and it was not going well for the North. In November of that year, Longfellow’s son, Charles, an Army lieutenant, was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.

That news compounded Longfellow’s devastation. His second wife, Fanny, had died two years earlier from burns sustained when her dress caught fire. Longfellow could not save her and suffered severe burns himself as he tried to smother the fire.

As a consequence of Fanny’s death, Christmas of…

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