One of my very favorite Christmas songs is “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.” This song was composed first as a poem on December 25, 1864 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. A few years ago, our worship pastor told us the story behind the poem. Since I heard the backstory, this song quickly rose to the top of my Christmas playlist.
1861 was a year of personal and national tragedy for Longfellow and his family. On April 12, 1861 the opening shots of the American Civil War were fired. In July 1861 Henry’s wife, Fanny, was giving her daughter a haircut in the library of their home. After trimming some of her daughter’s hair, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. She began to melt the bar of wax with a candle but a few drops fell onto her dress – immediately wrapping her in flames. Fanny tried to protect her daughter by running into Henry’s study in the next room where he tried to extinguish the flames with a rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Fanny - severely burning his face, arms, and hands.
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