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National Bell Festival

New Year's Day

Thundering bells unite communities across the world in a global display of peace, hope, and togetherness for the year ahead. As the tintinnabulation of bells cascades from above, people gather around listening parties, eclectic events, and special programming to meet a neighbor, learn about campanology, and literally ring in the New Year. The National Bell Festival takes its inspiration from a time when bells were the very heartbeat of communities. The organization works throughout the year to restore bells of historical or cultural significance, while funding new bell installations across America.

Image: U.S. Army Master Sergeant Lachrisha Parker (Ret.) tolls a bell to honor the bicentennial of Harriet Tubman at the Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery during the National Bell Festival on Jan. 1, 2022.

Memorial Day

Last Monday in May

The last Monday of May sees a grateful nation mourn the U.S. military personnel who fought and died in service to their country. Star-spangled flags are set at gravestones marking the resting places of American service members, while above, bells toll in honor of their bravery and sacrifice. Events at Arlington National Cemetery, one of two national cemeteries run by the U.S. Army, lead national commemorations with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The unofficial start of the summer season, Memorial Day is nonetheless a moment to pause, reflect, and remember.

Image: Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill, at right, salutes alongside Pearl Harbor attack survivors during a Memorial Day bell ringing ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on May 30, 2011. The bell was recovered from the wreckage of the USS Arizona, which was destroyed in the 1941 Japanese attack. Courtesy: U.S. Marine Corps.*

Independence Day

Fourth of July

As fireworks light up the sky, bells erupt in jubilant peal to celebrate the Declaration of Independence that established the United States of America. Cathedrals and churches, community organizations and historical structures, national parks and memorials, and people from sea to shining sea gather and contribute to the sound. While bells resound overhead, friends and families enjoy barbecues, picnics, block parties, and parades in a profusion of red, white, and blue. In Washington, D.C., an annual concert streamed nationwide features celebrity artists performing both familiar hits and patriotic tunes. 

Image: A Kaiserslautern Military Community child rings a bell while riding a carnival attraction during Freedom Fest at the Enlisted Club parking lot on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on July 4, 2017. Carnival rides, games, and cotton candy stands were set up for Freedom Fest, Ramstein’s way of celebrating Independence Day. Courtesy: Senior Airman Devin Boyer, U.S. Air Force.*

Patriot Day

September 11

Bells resound to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 Americans across four airplane crashes in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The day has become a national moment of service and remembrance. The names of the dead are read aloud and bells toll solemnly, often muffled or half-muffled, in respect. Other observations include the quick striking of a bell at the exact moment each plane went down: at 8:46am (North Tower), 9:03am (South Tower), 9:37am (Pentagon), and 10:03am (Shanksville). The president often leads commemorations with a wreath laying.

Image: Buckley Fire Department members on Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, stand behind a BFD helmet and a Buckley Fire and Emergency Services Honor Guard bell on September 11, 2017, as they remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Courtesy: Airman 1st Class Holden S. Faul, U.S. Air Force.*

Bells Across America for Fallen Service Members

September (date varies)

U.S. Navy installations around the world pause to honor those who died while wearing the uniform of our nation’s Armed Forces. This solemn bell ringing event is held during the annual Gold Star Remembrance Week to honor and remember the sacrifice of fallen service members and the loved ones they left behind. Sailors in dress whites gather alongside family members and other attendees to read the names of those lost, followed by the resolute striking of a bell. Since its inception in 1947, the Navy Gold Star program has supported spouses, children, parents, and siblings of fallen active-duty service members.

Image: Service members and civilians on Naval Support Activity Bethesda participate in Bells Across America on Sept. 21, 2017. The names of fallen service members were called out and a bell was rung for each during the ceremony. The event was held to honor Gold Star Families and those they lost in service to their country. Courtesy: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Phillips, U.S. Navy.*

Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters

October (date varies)

Fire departments from coast to coast remember the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice responding to their last alarm. Coinciding with the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, bells in fire stations, churches, and community centers are tolled to honor and respect those who gave their lives for the good of their communities. The reverent sound is often accompanied by a moment of silence and prayer. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation works to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries, while supporting families and colleagues in rebuilding their lives.

Image: The traditional five bell salute is given during a memorial service at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Courtesy: National Archives and Records Administration.

Veterans Day

November 11

Bells resound within a grateful nation as we reflect on the service of U.S. military Veterans. Aligning with the anniversary of the end of World War I, bells are traditionally tolled 11 times at 11:00am on November 11 – the moment the Armistice with Germany went into effect. More broadly, the day recognizes the contributions of our Armed Forces to defending and preserving freedom the world over. Citizen groups, along with active duty members of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard, hold special commemoration events at sites across America.

Image: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John T. Miller, left, assistant operations officer, and Cpl. Christopher L. Canup, legal clerk, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, ring a bell during the Bells of Peace ceremony marking the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I at John A. Lejeune Hall on MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Nov. 11, 2018. Courtesy: Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez, U.S. Marine Corps.*

*The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.