Christmas Caroling

Christmas Caroling

What we talk about when we talk about caroling — a small group of festive singers moving door-to-door in the neighborhood regaling residents with holiday songs — is actually the practice of wassailing, which has a history dating back to pre-Christian times. Carols, which are sung by people when they go wassailing, were originally circle dance songs associated with religious mystery plays.

Eventually the two practices merged. However, early New England carolers were closer to obnoxious trick-or-treaters than the jolly top hat-and-bonnet-wearing folks we usually think of! Recall the strangely demanding lyrics of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” including:

“Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here”

This was no empty threat. Carolers (well, wassailers, really, but stay with me…) who were not placated would put a curse on the household and might even vandalize the house itself!

As Christmas traditions were gradually institutionalized, the rough edges were filed off and caroling became more good-natured. However, taking the aura of rowdy “fun” away from caroling may have doomed it.

After some intensive research (twenty minutes on Google, if you must know, and we’re exhausted), we noticed that these days, caroling seems to be the domain of professionals who wassail by appointment. It makes us wonder… does anyone go caroling anymore just to do it? Or, is caroling truly now a retro holiday practice?

We’d like to know, Retrolanders — do you go caroling each season? Has it changed over the years? Be part of our little holiday traditions sociology survey by leaving your comments!

5 Responses to “Christmas Caroling”

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  1. Hello Kitty says:

    I have always wanted to do things to annoy Christmas Carolers. Not cause I’m a scrooge, I just like … well, cause it would be fun! Over the years I have compiled a list of ways that these pesky people. Pleqse feel free to add your own.

    Sing along very loudly, and very poorly!

    Come to the door in a robe, with your significant other – also in a robe, one of you holding a box of condoms and the other a tube of lube.

    Turn on the sprinklers or hide in the bushes and aim the water hose at them.

    Listen politely and then wish them a Happy July 4th.

    Listen to them and then give them treats: Stale cookies from about 6 months ago you have had in your pantry.

    Just stand there smiling in an eerie way …

    Hand out copies of The Watchtower.

    Make odd requests, like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” or “I Farted on Santa’s Lap” — with sign language interpretations.

    Come to the door in drag.

    Start booty dancing along to their singing.

    Start line dancing to their singing: Nothing better than doing the Macarena to Silent Night.

    Ask them if they didn’t mind if your invisible friend can listen with you.

    Put them to shame by bringing out your own set of carolers — who also happen to be classically trained opera singers — and put them to shame by singing the Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah.

    Release your rabies infected doberman on them.

  2. princessdiana says:

    No.I caroled a long time ago,when I was a kid.It was fun.I caroled to the old folks at riverbend and now genesys convelesent centers.

  3. Ruth says:

    As a child I went carol singing around the neighborhood. I don’t go caroling anymore but I have heard carolers in the neighborhood the past few evenings. I don’t think that it has changed at all and I remember one year at Borders, carolers dressed very much as they are in the above video, singing to their heart content. It was truly magical! :)

  4. Gina says:

    Our church does caroling most years–we didn’t do it this year because we were having a farewell to our assistant pastor party instead. Some years we drive all over to sick members of the church & carol them at their house. Other years the carolers go to a nursing home.
    Once when I was stressed out from Christmas shopping, a group of Dickensian carolers came into the shop I was at and proceeded to sing. I immediately felt better.

  5. Drahken says:

    We went caroling at the old folks home one year when I was in cub scouts. Other than that, I have never been carolling, nor seen/heard anyone else going caroling. It’s mostly some some quaint old thing that you see in cartoons.

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