Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Out of Tune?

Whatever happened to carolers? Back in the day, my friends and I would gather and go door-to-door singing holiday songs for our neighbors. Most of them seemed happy to see us, and some even tossed coins or treats our way to reward us for our efforts. It was like a mini-Halloween, only with singing instead of costumes (though I’m sure my voice must have been pretty scary.)

But now, unless they’re some “professional” outfit wandering the malls, or a church group hitting the nursing homes, you never come across carolers. Or at least I don’t. So what happened? Are today’s kids too lazy? Or are their parents too afraid? Was there some anti-caroling campaign I missed?  Did Nintendo come out with wii Carol? I figure something had to happen, because with the popularity of Glee, and flash mobs, it would seem like more kids would be into this aspect of the holiday spirit. But they’re not.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, as frankly, it’s pretty awkward to be standing in the door, letting all the heat out, while some out of tune urchins screech about Santa in his underwear.  But as a kid, it was fun. We’d steal the songbooks from church so we could practice, and then argue over our set lists. We’d giggle over words like “virgin” and “balls” and try to outlast each other with the longest peeeeee-eeeeeeace at the end of “Silent Night.” We demanded figgy pudding, implored people to come let us adore him, and exposed Santa kissing mothers.  And while very few of us could actually sing, what we lacked in talent, we more than made up for in volume.

And it seemed like we always had the perfect night, where the light of the moon would sparkle the lightly falling snow. We’d trudge up unshoveled walks, mash the doorbell with mittened hands, and start singing before the door was opened. Sometimes it never opened, but we always finished the song anyway. Then we’d go off to the next house.

 We didn’t worry about lawsuits, or pedophiles, or interrupting an episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  Our biggest concern was trying to remember if it was Nine Lords a Leaping or Nine Ladies Dancing. And maybe our neighbors were irritated by our intrusions, but they never let it show. Instead, they’d call for their husbands, ask if we took requests, and offer us some cocoa. And while we always tried to honor their requests, we never took them up on the cocoa. There was no such thing as to-go cups back then, and we had many other houses to hit and many more songs to sing before the night was through. The cocoa could wait until we got home.

Looking back, I suppose our caroling was pretty lame and corny, even by 70’s standards, so I can’t blame today’s kids for their lack of enthusiasm. But if there are any out there willing to give it a shot, my door is always (partially) open. I can’t promise caroling will make you the coolest kid on the block, but you will be the coldest! 


  1. Our neighborhood went caroling a bunch of years back when my kids were really little...I would be there dispensing a vat of hot chocolate (in to-go cups) to the kiddos, with a little extra somethin' (read: Bailey's) for the adults. It was nice. But then the adults sort of got too busy and that was it for that.

  2. This was never something my friends and I did recreationally. In parochial school, singing Christmas songs was practically part of the curriculum. Those nuns were like drill sargeants working us to get ready for the big parish Christmas program, which was always the LAST day of school before Christmas break. They got us so stressed out from the pressure that it destroyed most of the holiday season for us as kids. So caroling would have been like voluntarily doing extra homework. No thanks.