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Chaos of the Bells

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"Its lyrics describe silver bells intoning holiday cheer into every home, yet its melody suggests a force both relentless and mirthless."

Though based on the melody of the Ukrainian New Year's song "Shchedryk", "Carol of the Bells" is among the most iconic Christmas Songs ever written. Its unique sound with its fast tempo and minor key makes it a prime song to use to get the blood pumping... especially if it's a twisted or ass-kicking Christmas. Since the song is in the Public Domain (mostly), it's ripe for use in soundtracks and scores during the action or the suspense to give the listeners a rush of adrenaline while tying into the probable Christmas theme the work has (the fact that the core motif's pitch relationships perfectly mirror that of the start of the Dies irae Gregorian chant probably doesn't hurt, either).

As it is a well-recognized piece of Public Domain Soundtrack that is easily recognizable and easy to utilize, it is commonly a Standard Snippet; for this trope, it must be used in a manner that invokes senses of urgency, suspense, action, or dread.

See also For Doom the Bell Tolls, Deathly Dies Irae.


    open/close all folders 

  • The 2012 bumper for the NBA features several of the league's players dribbling basketballs to the tune of song. The commercial was made with every ball being bounced against a different surface which produced every individual note.
  • A 2020 commercial for Honda features several Honda Civics racing around a track to an electric guitar rendition of the song.
  • Played for Laughs by Garmin's long-running "Give a Garmin" campaign, which sets the tune to new lyrics about the stresses of Christmas.
    I missed my turn
    I'm gonna burn
    Wife's gonna freak
    Future looks bleak…

    Film - Live-Action 
  • The trailer for the 2019 remake of Black Christmas plays the song (as performed by Emmy Rossum) while showing snippets of the film's murders.
  • In the first Home Alone movie, a choir-sung "Carol of the Bells" transitions into the John Williams composition "Setting the Trap" — which is heavily influenced by the aforementioned carol — as Kevin McCallister booby-traps his house in preparation for the villains' arrival. It makes an encore appearance in the sequel, forming a Mood Whiplash with a preceding tear-jerking moment with "Christmas Star" playing.
  • Krampus: Played with, as a dark choir version plays not during an action or horror scene, but during the film's Closing Credits after Krampus has captured everyone to invoke a lingering sense of dread.
  • The Nativity Story: The song is played when Mary goes into labor in Bethlehem and she and Joseph frantically and desperately search for a safe place to deliver Christ. When the song's English lyrics are considered, the song fits perfectly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Impeachment season of American Crime Story, “Carol of the Bells” plays as Monica has a panic attack at Linda Tripp’s Christmas party after being served a subpoena, with Monica’s breathing mixed into the audio and several shots of Christmas figurines filmed with a fisheye lens.
  • Cobra Kai: In the season three finale "December 19", an electric guitar rendition of the song plays as the Cobra Kais carry out an attack on the LaRusso house.
  • Hawkeye: A quiet "Carol of the Bells" plays in the first episode as Kate sneaks into an illicit auction.
  • The West Wing: Downplayed. At the end of the episode "Noel", a group of Christmas Carolers sing the song, with sirens blaring in the distance as they finish, calling back to Josh's PTSD diagnosis.

  • "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" is an instrumental medley of "Shchedryk" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", originally by Savatage (from their album Dead Winter Dead) and more famously covered by their spinoff Trans-Siberian Orchestra (from their album Christmas Eve and Other Stories). Both versions represent the story of a classical cellist who returns to his home of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, and protests the war by playing his instrument in the city square, in defiance of the bombs dropping around him. (This was inspired by the real story of Vedran Smailović.)
  • The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society parodies the song and trope with their song "Carol of the Old Ones", which tells of the coming of the Old Gods and the end of mankind to the melody.
  • Type O Negative's Anti-Christmas Song "Red Water (Christmas Mourning)" interpolates "Carol of the Bells" as well as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".

  • Black Friday: Used as a Leitmotif during tense moments, such as the initial Wiggly outbreak, as the bridge in the song "Wiggle", and when it is revealed that the president has begun World War III.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar: The bridge section of the song "Getsemane" is a dramatically arranged, discordant rendition of the song used to underscore Jesus' dismay and worry about his upcoming crucifixion.


    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Origins: The song is used as the Joker's theme, played when he commits his acts of terrorism on Gotham on Christmas Eve. It also plays upon the completion of a Crime in Progress.
  • The Holiday mod of Friday Night Funkin' has an intense Boss Remix of the song called "Hark", featuring a duet between Boyfriend and Tankman. It uses the latter's infamous "ascension" from Guns as a leitmotif about a third of the way through.
  • The Duke Nukem 3D expansion Duke: Nuclear Winter opens with a talking snowman narrating the story of the game, with a rock version of "Carol of the Bells" that sounds very similar to "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" playing in the background.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit: An action-packed remix is used to score levels added by the Holiday Hare expansion pack.
  • The Christmas patch for A Link to the Past: Randomizer has "Carol of the Bells" replace Ganon's boss music.
  • Mega Man's Christmas Carol: An electronic remix of the song, titled "Carol of the Spirits", plays during various boss fights against Christmas-themed Robot Masters.
  • Super Daryl Deluxe: A rock cover of the song, with the lyrics changed to match the game's title (and appropriately named "Daryl of the Bells"), is featured as the BGM of the stage set in Ebenezer Scrooge's mansion, where Daryl has to fight hordes of ghost elves and haunted nutcrackers.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", a hard rock remix of the song plays as Santa Claus appears in the horizon, setting up the climactic battle between his forces and the Smiths.
  • Regular Show: The song plays in the episode "The Christmas Special" as Mordecai and Rigby battle Quillgin over a pit of lava.
  • Prep & Landing: Plays during the climax as Christmas Elves Wayne and Lanny struggle to lay down landing lights for Santa Claus during a snowstorm.


Video Example(s):


Home Alone- Prep for Battle

Kevin turns his house into a death trap, to the intense tunes of "Carol of the Bells."

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