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Old December 4 2011, 04:45 PM   #1
Warped9
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Location: Brockville, Ontario, Canada
Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Upon reading some books centred around Christmas, its history and traditions and Christmas oriented literature I've been thinking about traditions or practices that may or may not have died off or at least evolved into something else.

The family centred Christmas as we recognize it, at least how it's observed in North America, came about largely in the 19th century. Before that Christmas was often observed quite differently. In some respects it wasn't much different from what we might recognize as contemporary Halloween in that bands of revellers roved the streets singing and visited homes "asking" for food and drink (treat) or risk being visited by some disfavour (trick). This was at odds with those who felt Christmas should be observed more piously without all the drunken (and sexual) revelry. This is mostly the reason the Puritans and some others objected to Christmas, because it was an excuse for disorderly behaviour. For some others they also objected because the bible never specified the date of Christ's birth and they felt December 25th was arbitrarily chosen to coincide with seasonal festivities around the winter solstice.

The pre 19th century forms of "observing" or "keeping" Christmas are where many now familiar practices come from, from rituals that originated from other festivities unrelated to Christmas. But because of the timing of these festivals coinciding with December 25th many of the practices have become associated with Christmas. One of these rituals was wassailing or carolling (the singing of carols). This was originally the singing of festive songs that gradually embraced songs associated with Christmas or other holy days. Some of these carols and/pr hymns were also eventually adopted into church masses. Today the practice of carolling survives largely as the playing of what we recognize as Christmas music, although we can still hear people actually sing these songs at parties and social functions and even privately either singing or just whistling or humming a tune. We can also still hear Christmas hymns sung in church.

In some old movies and books we hear and see of people carolling in the streets, but does anyone still do this today? The only examples I can actually recall firsthand are seeing Salvation Army volunteers gathered on some busy city street corner singing or carolling to passerbys.

Many folks still use the holidays as something of an excuse for excessive drinking and "revelry," but people pretty much don't go around singing in the streets in exchange for food and drink from their neighbours anymore (to the best of my knowledge). But does anyone else recall actually seeing/hearing carollers out on the streets (beyond the Salvation Army) for the fun of it? Or perhaps you have actually gone carolling? Does anyone still burn yule logs?

Are there any other rituals you think we still practice in some form or you think have become pretty much if not totally defunct?

Thoughts anyone?
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Last edited by Warped9; December 4 2011 at 07:09 PM.
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