Why don’t people go Christmas caroling anymore? When I was a kid, Christmas always meant a clutch of strolling neighborhood singers regularly stopping outside your house at night to joyfully belt out a holiday tune, one that always made you feel so darn good right before you cranked up the TV so you could keep watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
We used to get so many caroling groups outside our house that by December 23rd my 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 as tenacious as hyenas. I remember being in awe of a group of 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! Peace on Earth!” and, “We saw you turn your lights out, heathens!”
I used to hope that two or three groups of carolers in our neighborhood would bump into each other, instigating a carolers’ turf war. I imagined cups of hot chocolate sailing through the air, people being beaten with rolled-up song sheets and choked with scarves, mittens and caps flying about.
The police showing up.
Me, being interviewed on the local news.
“I saw the whole thing,” I’d say into the mic. “It was horrible. I was innocently standing right here on my lawn with this B-B gun, when all of a sudden the happy holiday singing everywhere around me turned into terrifying howls of psychotic bloodlust. It was awful! And yet, before I could drag my sister out here from inside our home in the hopes of someone clocking her with a mug, it was over. Christmas carolers are a dangerous menace to society who must be stopped right after they wang my sister on the head with a coffee mug.”
But the point is, where are the carolers nowadays? What happened to that tradition? I myself used to adore 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
And then when I do sing stuff like that, because at least I’m singing something, sooner or later at least one of my fellow carolers will start giving me the stink-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 loosen my front teeth.
And whenever I went a’ carolin’, I always ended up standing in front of that special person who’s in every caroling group: the one who mistook “Let’s go out Christmas caroling!” with “Let’s go audition for the Metropolitan Opera!” You know those people? Who sing like what they’re really doing is drumming up customers for their hearing aid business?
The point is: 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 cold, to wander around the dark streets singing songs in the hopes that eventually someone will feed you.
Because if “Look! I’m making you cheery! Now feed me!” doesn’t say Christmas, I don’t know what does.