Snowy Sleigh Bells

One good way to recognize winter-themed musics is the presence of jingly sleigh bells (also known as jingle bells) in the soundtrack.

These little bells were first used on horse-drawn vehicles to warn bypassers about the arrival of the carriage and most importantly the sleighs (hence the name), as the vehicle would otherwise make no sound at all. The relation between these bells and sleighs might be the origin of this trope and is the premise of the most famous Christmas song of them all: Jingle Bells.

Incredibly common in Slippy-Slidey Ice World levels in video games, as well as in Christmas songs.

Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • The Christmas episode of Le Cœur a ses Raisons has sleigh bells during the interludes between the "Christmas at the Montgomery's'' segments. The Christmas episode of "Medical Drama" also features sleigh bells each time Brett says the word "Christmas".

Music
  • A lot of Christmas songs use sleigh bells as a part of their instrumentation, with "Jingle Bells" as the prime example.
  • Evoked in the opening of "Sleigh Ride" : "Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too..."
  • Sufjan Stevens not only uses sleigh bells on many songs from his Songs for Christmas box set, but also writes about them in the liner notes, mentioning that playing them properly isn't as easy as you'd think.
  • Downplayed in the Norwegian Christmas song/parody "Julekveld i skogen" by Rolf Just Nilsen, where sleigh bells are only used as part of the instrumentation in the verses that describe someone arriving in a sleigh.
  • Evoked in "Winter Wonderland" with the rhyme "Sleigh bells ring are you listening / In the lane snow is glistening".

Video Games

Web Video
  • Video game music analyst Jake Butineau has a video discussing this trope: "Why I Hate Winter Level Music". He argues that the "Instant winter, just add sleigh bells!" approach has been overused to the point of cliche, and feels that VG musicians are ignoring all the other ways they could evoke the mood of winter.
    Jake: This is called a sleigh bell. You may have heard it in every Christmas song, ever.

Webcomics

Western Animation
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SnowySleighBells