Christmas Bells are Ringing

On the Record with Barb Nagle

SYCAMORE – This has been a difficult year for many people, including Barb Nagle. In 2020, her father died and her 6-year-old granddaughter has been receiving chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer.

But instead of “sitting here and crying about it all day,” Nagle said she “wanted to do something positive and have faith.”

To ring out the old year and celebrate Christmas, Nagle has started a local bell-ringing event that coincides with the Worldwide Christmas Eve Jingle, an idea that began in England.

At 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, people around the world will stand outside their home and ring a bell for two minutes.

To help get the word out about the bell-ringing, Nagle had 24 signs made and has distributed them to families around Sycamore.

Nagle spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about the event and the significance of ringing a bell.

Milton: What is the bell-ringing event?

Nagle: On Christmas Eve, at 6 p.m., you step outside and ring a bell for two minutes. It doesn’t have to be a bell, it can be anything, even a wind chime. I’ve had some people ask me if they can honk their horn. … It’s something families can do together. They can make their own bells or make a bell bracelet.

Milton: What is the purpose of ringing a bell?

Nagle: To me, it signifies the past, present and future, especially for those affected by COVID-19. It’s to honor those who have passed, those going through it now and those who will have it in the future.

Milton: How did you have the signs made?

Nagle: I moved to Sycamore from Mount Prospect in October after being laid off from my job. I was a quality control manager for a printer. When I had the idea about the bell-ringing, I went to my old boss to ask about purchasing signs to display. When he told me the price, I was shocked. There’s no way I could afford that. So I asked him if I could do some work to pay for the signs and he agreed. Initially, I wanted 50 signs, but because the printer was so busy, 24 were made. They’re beautiful. They’re two sided and colorful, something made to last.

Milton: How did you distribute the signs?

Nagle: I’ve distributed the signs to families that wanted them. They asked me if I wanted the signs back after Christmas Eve, and I told them to keep them and use them next year. I hope it can become a tradition. The day and the time doesn’t have to change, and we can do the event every year.

Milton: Do you know how many people will participate?

Nagle: I was surprised at the number of responses when I first put the idea out there. So many people reached out to me with their own sad stories. They lost siblings, parents, friends. I realized that it’s way bigger than me. I’m only one small piece of the pie. … I’ve called a few churches and they said they’ll ring their bells. I’d love to have more churches participate. What I’d really like is for everyone to go outside and for everything to be quiet. Then at 6 p.m., you hear the tinkling of bells and some horns honking. I’m not sure how loud the bells would be, but there could be a noise if enough people do it.

Milton: Why is it important to do something positive during the pandemic?

Nagle: I lost my father this year. In addition to COVID, there’s been a surge of deaths. I think it’s from isolation and being alone. 2020 has been like a big horror story. … Rather than sitting here and crying about it all day, I wanted to do something positive and have faith. I think that the bell-ringing is a good thing for everybody. It’s a positive response to something negative. It can be a family event. You don’t have to buy anything or go anywhere. You just have to go outside and ring a bell.

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.