1. You can be paid to be a bell ringer.
While many of the people you see guarding the red kettles are volunteers, anyone can apply to get paid minimum wage to collect donations during Christmastime.
2. Kids can be bell ringers.
In North Dakota and Minnesota, for example, under 14 year olds can guard the red kettle, but must be accompanied by an adult.
3. They’re like mail carriers, out doing their job rain or shine.
Or blizzard. “Bell-ringing is very rarely cancelled,” one site for interested bell ringers says. But the local organizations provide numbers to find out if weather conditions are severe enough to keep ringers off the streets.
4. You’re not likely to see bell ringers on Sundays.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to attend worship services on Sundays and enjoy a day of rest,” one regional branch of the Christian organization says on its site. Many other local divisions say the same on their sites.
5. But you may see them out as early as the Monday after Halloween.
I spotted one outside of Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the first Salvation Army kettle contribution-funded sit-down dinner for the needy took place in 1901, on November 2!
6. They get some really strange donations.
You might expect the occasional pocket paper clip and tissue in those red kettles, but bell ringers have received foreign bills, Monopoly money and lottery tickets in addition to totally kooky items, like dental bridges and Viagra!
7. They get strange requests too.
“I was doing the bell ringing with my friend,” a Reddit user by the name of ballaedd25 wrote on the site, “and an 80-year-old lady said she wasn't going to donate until we came up with a rap.”
8. They might be ringing their bell in time with something surprising. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, a poster with the username shaydwight who claimed to be a Salvation Army bell ringer said, “I have my mp3 player. I try to match the beat of the bell to whatever music I'm listening to.”
9. They’re a part of a tradition dating back to 1891.
Though the red kettles have changed from iron to lighter-weight metal to plastic, the goal of helping the poor hasn’t. These days, donations cover the cost of buying toys, coats, and groceries for those in need.
10. They really appreciate hot cocoa.