While Duke Ellington made “Ring Dem Bells” famous in 1930, the Salvation Army has put it into practice for many years. Ever since the San Francisco Salvation Army first utilized crab-cooking kettles in 1891 to collect money to help the needy, red kettles have become a part of the Christmas season. While I can’t swear they used bells that first Christmas, we expect them now. The kettles have become the biggest fund-raiser for the Army’s charitable programs for the whole year. Although the Army does pay people to ring the bells when needed, they love it when volunteers ring the bells for two reasons: it saves money so there is more for their work with those in need and the volunteers are much more enthusiastic than the paid workers. The kettle return for volunteers is almost always higher than for paid workers. After all, they can arm-twist friends and acquaintances without any qualms. I know. I ring that bell.
Bell ringing can be fun. On behalf of the Gold Country Celtic Society, I recently took a shift with my friend Mikey. Although he is a bagpiper and has played them when we’ve done it previously, we were going to be inside of a local supermarket and he thought it might be a problem. Judging by the response, probably that would not have been the case. I came as the Scottish Santa and it was a real kick. Probably 99% of the people would break into a grin when we greeted them with a “Merry Christmas” as they came in the door. I had one man ask what tartan I was wearing. “McClaus, of course,” I replied. The women were interesting, with several of them stuffing money in the kettle while commenting on our good-looking knees. When one woman I know came into the store, I said, “Merry Christmas, Carol.” She looked at me quizzically and said, “How do you know my name?” Mikey said, “Santa knows everyone’s name.” But the kids were my favorites. Handing them a candy cane and seeing the look in their eyes gives me a thrill every time. As a kid who believed in Santa, I can relate. As Santa now, I can enjoy. Although the two hours standing after putting up Christmas decorations all over the house earlier did get to my aging back, it was well worth it.
Okay, here comes the pitch. If you’re a part of any business, club or society, take a day and “ring dem bells.” It is fun, rewarding and helps your community. We’ve had a “Battle of the Media” between The Union newspaper and KNCO radio. I don’t know who will win, but The Union publicized their day and gave away a lot of free stuff. All that for bragging rights and a plaque. If you want to have a kick while doing good, click here for your local Salvation Army location and sign up for bell ringing.
Merry Christmas from the Scottish Santa.