Why Are Bells Ringing Today?

If you’re merrily sauntering through the park on a lazy weekend afternoon or hustling down a busy city road, you perchance may have heard the jingling, bonging, clanging tintinnabulation of a few precocious bells and wondered: Why are the bells ringing today? 

Bells ring from time to time for any number of reasons. Here are but a few of the impelling civic, societal, or religious forces that may have set the bells ringing today.

Bells ring...

...to tell the time

Many bells and clock towers chime on the hour, the quarter hour, the half hour, and the three-quarter hour. These bells are sounded automatically through a system of electronic clappers, often playing a partial melody. On the hour, the full melody is played, followed by a sequence of tolls denoting the time of day (one toll for one o’clock, two tolls for two o’clock, and so on).

...to call the faithful to worship

Churches, cathedrals, and houses of worship may ring their bells before a service as parishioners gather or following a service as they depart. The duration of bell ringing varies from place to place. The number of bells engaged in the ringing also fluctuates, as some buildings have but one bell to ring while others have a dozen or more.

...to toll in remembrance

A single bell can ring with such plaintive resonance that it portends a painful melancholia and brooding sadness. When a beloved member of the community dies, or to commemorate a painful tragedy shared by all, the funeral bell might toll in slow, measured strikes. Sometimes the bells are half-muffled, resulting in a single, loud "open" strike followed by a softer tone, which has a very sonorous and mournful echo effect. The bells will often toll for the number of years of a person’s life, or the number of lives to have perished.

...to mark a public holiday

Bells erupt for many a public holiday, creating a festive environment around Christmastime, New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July, and other moments of national significance, like the inauguration of a president.

...to ring out in celebration

Dancing cascades of bells in a high bell tower can erupt into a merry peal to celebrate the day and lift the collective spirit. Bells ring at moments of national pride, like a victory at the Olympics or major sporting event, or when peace finally returns after years of war.

...to announce a wedding or birth

Wedding bells, natal bells, and christening bells announce the start of new life. These ring with quick and light strikes, creating a cheerful peal that wafts across the breeze. 

...to herald a coronation

Bells ring out for king and community alike, and both appreciate their splendor. When King Charles III was crowned as monarch on May 6, 2023, an initiative called Ring for the King had been endeavoring for months to recruit and train bell ringers in time for the coronation. When the pageantry-laden day arrived, bell towers across the United Kingdom resounded in jubilation for the new sovereign.

...to let the bell ringers practice

The art of change ringing involves a group of people rhythmically ringing a set of tuned bells in close coordination through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns. It takes some practice. As such, if you hear bells ringing today, it may be because the bell ringers need time to learn the ropes (literally!) and perfect their bell handling and control techniques.

Still not sure why the bells are ringing today?

Explore our list of massed bell ringing events that reverberate across the nation each year. To learn of bell happenings in your area, consider signing up for news and exclusive invitations, following along on our social channels, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or bookmarking Bells.org for all the latest in campanology.