Christmas Kettle

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A Christmas kettle in Sweden
An American Gold Eagle.

The Christmas Kettle (also referred to as the Red Kettle due to its color) is The Salvation Army's most famous street campaign. It is most recognized during the Christmas season through its volunteers who stand outside of businesses and play or sing Christmas carols, or ring bells to inspire passersby to place donations of cash and checks inside the trademark red kettles.


A tradition on the "kettle" started in 1891, in San Francisco, by Salvation Army officer Captain Joseph McFee.[1] Captain McFee, resolving to provide a free Christmas dinner to the poor of San Francisco, remembered a sight he saw in Liverpool, England. From his days as a sailor McFee remembered a large pot displayed on the Stage Landing, called "Simpson's Pot." The pot took in donations put in by passersby. Taking this idea, McFee asked for permission from San Francisco city authorities to place a crab pot and tripod at the Oakland ferry landing. The kettle - and McFee's call of "Keep the Pot Boiling!" - drew in passengers and donations.[2]

The idea spread, and is in use by many Salvation Army charities worldwide. Innovations from the crab pot have included self ringing kettles, booths that play Christmas music, and Credit Card capabilities.[1]

Since 1997, the Christmas kettle campaign is traditionally kicked off during the halftime of the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day football game. An oversized kettle sits just outside the playing field, which has on at least four occasions been featured after touchdown celebrations:

  • Terrell Owens (on the Thanksgiving Day 2006 (November 23) game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after catching a pass for a touchdown, dropped the ball into the kettle, donating the ball to the Salvation Army),
  • Ezekiel Elliott (on December 18, 2016, also against Tampa Bay, after scoring a rushing touchdown jumped into the kettle)
  • Elliott again on two occasions during the Thanksgiving Day 2018 (November 22) game against the Washington Redskins, first after scoring a touchdown dropped $21 (his number) into the kettle; later when teammate Dak Prescott scored Elliott dropped Prescott into the kettle.

Anonymous donations[edit]

A tradition has developed in the United States where, in some places, gold coins are anonymously inserted into the kettles in which the bell ringers collect donations. The tradition appears to have started in the Midwest when the first known drop of a gold coin was put into a kettle in Crystal Lake, Illinois in 1982.[3]

Since this drop, many others have taken to dropping not only gold coins,[4] but also other bullion and rare coins, gold medals,[5] jewelry, and large checks. The anonymous donations have included:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Salvation Army Spokane (Copyright date 2007). "Red Kettles". Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2007-12-20. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ ´ (2014). Uncle John's Facts to Go Nice People. Ashland: Portable Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-62686-238-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Oren Dorell (December 7, 2006). "Gold coins from secret Santas bring cheer to Christmas bell ringers". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  4. ^ Journal staff (December 19, 2007). "Salvation Army gets 10 gold coins". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  5. ^ Journal staff (December 16, 2005). "Gold coin donated again". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  6. ^ Andrea J. Cook (December 21, 2006). "Red kettle gold converted to green". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  7. ^ Bill Sheets (November 28, 2007). "Mysterious gold coin dropped in Salvation Army kettle". The Daily Herald. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  8. ^ Mary Stegmeir (December 20, 2007). "Salvation Army kettle yields double eagle gold coin". WCF Courier. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
  9. ^ "$500K check dropped into Salvation Army kettle in Minnesota". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  10. ^ "Gold teeth donated to Salvation Army kettle". USA Today. Associated Press. December 18, 2005. Retrieved 2007-12-20.