Bells are ringing… on New Year’s Eve

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There are loads of decommissioned cloister bells to be found in the antique shops here in the region. And I must admit, when a bell, no matter how tiny or big, is stuck away somewhere on a flea market, its attraction magically weaves itself around me and I have no choice but to go, look at it and hear its chime. A desperate husband knows his fate… a new one will have to be hung up around the house.Whether it’s an old-fashioned school bell, a hotel reception bell, an Indian one, topped with a war goddess,
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or a huge abbey bell, it has to be mine. We have one at our gate and several hanging on the porch, have a look at this gorgeous one with the angel:

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Some are decorating our cupboards and loads of them are tucked away with the Christmas decorations.

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We do use them for what they were intended for: when one of us is on the land and it is time for food, you won’t hear us call or shout; we just ring the biggest cloister bell on our porch.

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On my very own soon to be birthday, the 31st of December, at midnight, all the guests (young or old) gather around a huge bonfire and get a bell in their hands: we ring the old year out and the new one in. The art of tintinnabulation as they call it, is practiced here!

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From ancient China in 2000 BC, going to India and Japan, bells have found their way into my heart. The land of the rising sun is my imagination: smaller bells were openly used by people who wanted an easy way of conveying information across large distances. I know religions proved to be crucial for the adoption of bells all across the world, but what I love the most is that long before that, bells were viewed as musical instruments, they were the voices of the gods providing peace, clear minds, exiling bad spirits and providing happiness.

In the Middle Ages bells were used to notify people of the time of day ( just before the strike of the hour bell, the people were warned by a few higher tones struck to attract their attention) but also fires, storms, wars …

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Nowadays we hear them in nearly every Christmas song:

“Ring The Bells” song by the Stuart Heights Orchestra & Choirs:

Maybe my roots are calling, as in Flanders (Oudenaarde), one day (the year 1510) a so called “fool” used the bells of the Town Hall, to perform his music, the first carillion was born. The French call it “quadrillion”, meaning four bells. This musical instrument is only to be found in the belfry (bell tower) of a church or municipal building, consisting of at least 23 cast bronze cup-shaped bells. The batons of the keyboard are struck with the fists and the feet operate the pedal keyboard.

My dream is to visit, in February, the medieval copper city Villedieu-les-Poêles (French Normandy), the first commandry of the order of the Knights of Malta. Its foundries are specialized in bell-making, their bells can be heard ringing around the world! Its inhabitants are known as “Sourdins”, referring to the deafness of the boiler makers, who spent their days noisily hammering metal. It is also the place to shop for antique furniture, clocks and lace! But most of all I’m looking forward to the guided tour of the original 19th century bell foundry: La Fonderie des Cloches. Hope to tell you all about that experience then.

To be honest, in “certain” countries, bells did cause accidents. In France between the years 1753 and 1786, 103 bell-ringers were killed during thunderstorms as a result of holding on to wet bell ropes. The Parliament of Paris enforced an edict in 1786 to forbid the practice.

Do send me a picture if you have one at home, can’t wait to see it! Let me know if you actually use them or keep them just for decoration.

While you’re thinking join Nat King Cole with “Christmas bells”:

Your toller will make some noise at midnight soon, I will be there with bells on!

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