Christmas carols help set the mood for the holiday season. Such songs are played in stores to create festive atmospheres for shoppers, and many families play seasonal music as they decorate their homes for the holidays.
Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago during Winter Solstice celebrations. When Christian holidays replaced many of the pagan celebrations, Christian holiday carols replaced the earlier songs.
Before Christmas carols were sung by the general public, they were enjoyed during church services, when they sometimes were performed by official carol singers. However, new carols became popular during the Victorian era, when many ordinary people took to the streets to share holiday joy with others through the gift of song. Wassail, a thick, hot and spiced beverage, often kept carolers warm, and soon wassailing and caroling became intertwined.
Although carols and other songs are still popular forms of entertainment at school concerts and some religious group events, the classic tradition of carolers going door-to-door has largely fallen by the wayside. But those who want to bring back this once beloved tradition can take the following steps to do just that.
• Find a caroling group leader. It helps to have someone who has a sense of musicality and pitch to lead the caroling. Carols are usually sung a capella, so you'll need a strong singer to guide others and keep them in tune. Recruit a theater or music student or even a member of your church choir. Fill out the rest of the carolers with volunteers who have moderate to strong singing abilities. Of course, you can accept anyone, as it's more about sharing the joy rather than having a pitch-perfect group.
• Choose a neighborhood to visit. Select an established neighborhood where there are likely to be many families and even seniors who will be most receptive to carolers. Place fliers in the mailboxes alerting residents of your caroling plans for those who want to be home to enjoy the free show.
• Promote your plans if you want a larger crowd. If you want to make the caroling a big event, promote your plans in the local newspaper or in a community bulletin. This way everyone in the community can take in the caroling show.
• Choose a handful of well-known songs to sing. Your audience will appreciate easily recognizable songs they can sing along with if they choose.
• Print lyric sheets. Although the lyrics to popular songs are widely known, it helps to have them handy if carolers forget verses. Keep extra copies on hand in case others want to join the caroling group.
• Get a sponsor. If you live in a rural area and caroling door-to door is impractical, see if a local retailer will let you carol outside of his or her store or business. Doing so can set the holiday mood and may generate free advertising and increased business for sponsors.
• Involve youth groups. Kids love the holiday, so including them in your caroling efforts can bring smiles to many faces. Speak with local youth groups to determine if their members may want to join in your efforts to spread holiday cheer.