Christmas Caroling Etiquette

Teenagers singing Christmas carols by candlelight.
Celebrate the holidays with Christmas carols. Frank Carter / Getty Images

One of the things most people like about the holiday season is the music. And what better way to share it than by going door to door with a group of friends and singing your heart out. Just remember to bring your manners with you.

Here are some basic guidelines for Christmas caroling:

Know the Words

If possible, practice before singing for others. For anyone who doesn't know the words, provide printed lyrics.

It's never a good idea to fake it because your audience will get the wrong message and possibly think you are making fun of something they hold dear to their hearts.

Dress Appropriately

Make sure you wear something that is appropriate for the weather, your audience, and your fellow carolers. You may choose to go in costume, but it's a good idea if your entire group goes along with it. Otherwise, you will stick out and call undue attention to yourself. It's fun to see carolers dressed in Victorian era outfits that set the mood yet showed respect for what they were doing.

Be Safe

If you are caroling at night, bring flashlights. Avoid candles with real flames because they can ignite someone's hair, mittens, or sleeves. Wear reflective clothing and try to use sidewalks when they are available. Use the buddy system to make sure everyone is accounted for.

Be Respectful

Be observant of time and avoid going during mealtimes or after most people go to bed.

You are much more likely to be greeted with smiles if your audience is relaxed and not stressed about dinner getting cold.

Don't Linger Where You're Not Wanted

Some people won't want to listen to your caroling, even if you do sound better than Bing Crosby. If someone asks you to leave or refuses to stick around, accept it and move on.

Smile

No one wants to listen to a grumpy caroler. If you look happy, you'll accomplish your mission of bringing joy to others, even if your music isn't perfect and hit a few sour notes.

Bring Cheer to the Infirm

Take your group to the local hospital and sing to sick children. Or stop by the local nursing home where grandmas and grandpas will be able to sing along because most of them probably know the words. Before going to any hospital or health care facility, get permission from the administration.

Be Thankful

When someone takes the time to listen to your song, offers a treat, or contributes to your charity, thank him afterward.

Don't Expect a Reward or Donation

Singing Christmas carols should be an act of goodwill. Never expect anything in return. After all, you're there to spread goodwill, not beg.

Don't Overstay Your Welcome

Sing a couple of songs and then move on. Otherwise, the audience may get fidgety and annoyed.

Don't Stay Out Late

Most communities and cities have noise ordinances. Learn what they are and obey them. You don't want your good intentions of spreading Christmas cheer to get you into trouble with the law.

Be Welcoming

If a group comes to your door singing Christmas carols, and you aren't busy, take some time to listen to them.

Call for your children to join you and use it as a teaching opportunity to show them how nice others can be.

Give Carolers Some Applause

Applaud the carolers after they finish singing and offer something small. Even passing around a bag of store-bought cookies is a nice gesture. If for some reason you're not able to listen to the carolers, wish them a Merry Christmas and be kind. Perhaps you can invite them to return later, after dinner or when you have a few minutes to spare.

If You Must Decline, Do So Politely

If you are against Christmas carols for any reason, be kind and politely decline before closing your door. You don't have to state your reason unless you want to. If you do, keep your comments appropriate for the season and never insult the carolers.