If you're looking for ways to spread a little holiday cheer this season, you may want to add Christmas caroling to your list. A time-honored tradition, the act of caroling around the holidays dates all the way back to pre-Christian celebrations of the Festival of Yule in Northern Europe, where revelers would join together to honor the Winter Solstice with song and dance.
Modern Christmas caroling may no longer involve dancing, but many of the same festive attributes are still present, making it a joyous occasion for both those singing, as well as those on the receiving end of a song. Whether you go Christmas caroling every season or just enjoy watching others do it, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make it a special—and safe—experience for all.
Dress to Impress
Depending on where you live, your Christmas caroling may get a bit chilly. Dress for the winter weather while staying festive by incorporating lots of cozy layers in holiday shades like red and green. You may also choose to go the traditional route and wear Victorian-era holiday attire similar to what you see on carolers in movies and television, like long velvet overcoats, bonnets, top hats, and more. Coordinate with your group for a cohesive, festive look, and bring along a few extra layers in case the temperatures drop while you're out singing.
It's important to keep safety in mind as you're caroling, especially if you'll be going around at night. Whether you're on a crowded street or a quiet cul-de-sac, bring plenty of illuminating light so that drivers can easily spot you. Flashlights will work great for this, but you can also snag a few LED lanterns if you want to keep on-theme. While candlelight may feel festive and traditional, it's probably best to skip the real flame, as you run the risk of igniting a fellow caroler's hair or attire! Beyond ensuring that you're easily seen at night, there are a few other safety measures you should keep in mind. Designate a member of your group to carry a first aid kit just in case of emergency, and make sure at least a few of you have fully-charged cell phones. Lastly, implement a buddy system, especially if you'll have young children in tow.
As fun as caroling is, it's important to recognize that not everyone wants to be sung to. As you and your group are going door to door, be respectful if you pick up on cues that a home isn't necessarily on board with your caroling. Try to avoid making the rounds during mealtimes (most people won't enjoying having their dinner interrupted) or too close to a typical bedtime, especially for homes with children.
As a rule of thumb, late afternoon and early evening on the weekends is probably a safe bet for Christmas caroling—you are much more likely to be greeted with smiles if your audience is relaxed and not stressed about dinner getting cold or getting to bed after a busy workday. Lastly, allow a home's lights to clue you in. If the front porch and interior lights are off, it's likely that the residents are either not home or not interested in welcoming revelers.
Know the Words
Let's be honest—opening your door to carolers only to have them botch the words to your favorite jingle can be awkward. If you're going around as a group, it's important to make sure everyone knows which songs you'll be singing and the words to those tunes. Ahead of your scheduled Christmas caroling day, sit down with a few members of your caroling crew, and come up with 10 or so songs you'll sing throughout your evening. If you have the time, it can also be a great idea to make mini songbooks for everyone in attendance (especially if you'll have kids in your group)—not only is it a surefire way to make sure everyone stays on-verse, but cute booklets will add to the Victorian-inspired charm of your caroling choir.
Keep It Short and Sweet
The whole goal with Christmas caroling is to spread as much holiday cheer as possible, so it makes sense that you don't want to get stuck at a few houses singing through your whole songbook. Set an agreed-upon song limit for each home (one to two songs is probably ideal), then move on once they're complete unless the homeowners beg for an encore to ensure you're not overstaying your welcome at any one home.
Think Beyond Your Neighborhood
You may not live in a traditional neighborhood that makes caroling easy—and that's ok! Just think outside the box a little bit when it comes to choosing your cheerful destination. You could go door-to-door in your apartment complex, store-to-store in a downtown shopping area, or even hit up a local hospital or nursing home to spread holiday cheer to those who probably need it most. Just be sure you get permission to enter medical or care facilities ahead of time so proper precautions can be communicated to your group.
Do a Bit of Good
Sure, you're already spreading joy with your songs—but why not take it one step further and add a layer of charity to your caroling? You'll already have a captive audience, so if you have a cause that's close to your heart this holiday season (like supporting a local food bank or raising money for a homeless shelter), then incorporate donations into your evening of caroling. Inform your audience that you're caroling on behalf of a certain organization and that donations are appreciated, but never expected. Or, you could do the donating yourself, pledging to contribute five dollars for every home you sing at.
Think Beyond Christmas
While caroling is traditional to Christmas, it's important to recognize that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. In order to appeal to whichever home you visit, try incorporating a few more generic holiday songs into your lineup, along with the more traditional Christmas classics. Tunes like "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," "Let it Snow," and "Frosty the Snowman" can all help you spread cheer without being too Christmas-centric.