What every happened to neighborhood Christmas carolers? When I was a kid Christmas always meant clutches of strolling neighborhood singers stopping outside your house at night to joyfully belt out a holiday tune that always made you feel so good right before you cranked up the TV because they were interrupting Hawaii Five-O.
Ah, carolers. They used to be such a big part of Christmas. We used to get so many caroling groups outside our house that by December 23rd my whole family was capable of enjoying an entire meal in the pitch dark that came from us closing all our curtains and snapping off our lights because it’s not like you can’t hear them coming. But, as everyone knows, carolers are hyena tenacious. I remember being in awe of some carolers’ will-do attitude as they steadfastly stood outside our house, singing their hearts out with a raucous gusto that at once communicated, “Merry Christmas!” and, “We know you’re in there! We saw you turn your lights out!”
I used to hope that different caroling groups would bump into each other so that a caroling turf war would break out. I imagined cups of hot chocolate flying everywhere, people being being beaten with rolled up song sheets, mittens and caps sailing through the air.
Cops arriving, the blinking, whirling blue and red lights atop their cars looking festive yet heart-attack inducing.
Me being interviewed on local TV.
“I saw the whole thing,” I’d say. “It was horrible. I was innocently standing right here on my lawn with this slingshot, when all of a sudden the joyful caroling turned into wails of bloodlust. It was awful. And yet, before I could drag my sister out here in the hopes of someone clocking her with a mug, it was over. Christmas carolers are dangerous menaces to society who must be stopped right after they wang my sister on the head with a coffee mug.”
But the point is: What happened to the tradition of Christmas carolers? Where’d they go? I used to love the idea of going Christmas caroling. True, the reality of going Christmas caroling never quite jingled my bells. But that’s mainly because I’m apparently somehow constitutionally incapable of remembering the words to any Christmas carol except Jingle Bells. So I’m always stuck belting out things like:
Good King Winksalot looked out
At the feet of Stephen
Then the snow was all about
Deeply, crispy Steven.
Tightly moans the moon at night
Though it’s not in schoo-ol
Willy Wonka is a fright
Carrying his winner coo-oo-ler
Forget it. Plus, while making up lyrics I always notice my fellow carolers giving me the evil eye. Like they know all the lyrics. That’s when I usually start silently mouthing the lyrics, the better to hear them failing. But glaring at your fellow carolers while pretending to sing is only fun for about ten or fifteen songs. Then it’s back to so dramatically rolling my r’s in Little Drummer Boy that I practically choke to death on my own tongue.
And every time I caroled I somehow always managed to end up standing directly in front of that special person who’s in every caroling group: the one who mistook “Hey, everyone, let’s go out Christmas caroling!” with “Hey, everyone, let’s go audition for the Metropolitan Opera!” You know those people? Who think it’s their moral obligation to drown out everyone else’s inferior voice with the redeeming power of their own deafening pipes? Who articulate the heck out of every carol—and usually do so with an English accent they somehow suddenly acquired?
Actually, I envy those people. I know I’d sing just like them if my attempting to do so didn’t make dogs grind their teeth.
Anyway, I sure do miss that great tradition of gathering together with a bunch of people you don’t really know all that well, and then going outside with them into the freezing dark to wander around the streets singing songs in the hopes that someone will eventually feed you free cookies.
On the other hand there’s no denying that it’s also nice not to get randomly jabbed in the thigh or arm with a fork while you’re huddled in the dark with your family beneath the dining table trying to eat while hiding from Christmas carolers. So, you know. It’s important to look on the bright side of things, too.
Originally published in December 2007.