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Old December 4 2011, 04:45 PM   #1
Warped9
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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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Old December 4 2011, 05:17 PM   #2
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Carolling is alive and well this side of the pond. Both in public places (often with a charity tin) or door-to-door (again, with the intention of earning money but not usually this time for charity). There's a funny mix of teenagers messing about and thinking they'll make money from it and people who take it very seriously indeed.

It is also common to attend carol services near Christmas, even for the non- or only semi- religious.
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Old December 4 2011, 05:21 PM   #3
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

cultcross wrote: View Post
Carolling is alive and well this side of the pond. Both in public places (often with a charity tin) or door-to-door (again, with the intention of earning money but not usually this time for charity). There's a funny mix of teenagers messing about and thinking they'll make money from it and people who take it very seriously indeed.

It is also common to attend carol services near Christmas, even for the non- or only semi- religious.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:04 PM   #4
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

I've never seen anyone carol in my life. I don't think I'd like it.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:11 PM   #5
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

The Human Fund wrote: View Post
I've never seen anyone carol in my life. I don't think I'd like it.
Really? When I was a kid I can recall my father or other relatives striking up a song during Christmas at a family party. But out in the street with others I can't really recall seeing it.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:15 PM   #6
{ Emilia }
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

The Human Fund wrote: View Post
I've never seen anyone carol in my life. I don't think I'd like it.
I used to live in a house that faces the main market square of a small German city.
I ended up hating christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) because even with closed windows I could hear people singing christmas songs, untalented kids play christmas songs on their trumpets and tubas, even more kids singing christmas songs, weird Russian christmas songs with even weirder instruments, then some more kids singing christmas songs and occasionally 2 Polish guys singing Italian songs and opera.

All fucking day long.

Like Cultcross said there's teenagers thinking they'll make some money.

Gaaaaah.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:24 PM   #7
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

{ Emilia } wrote: View Post
The Human Fund wrote: View Post
I've never seen anyone carol in my life. I don't think I'd like it.
I used to live in a house that faces the main market square of a small German city.
I ended up hating christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) because even with closed windows I could hear people singing christmas songs, untalented kids play christmas songs on their trumpets and tubas, even more kids singing christmas songs, weird Russian christmas songs with even weirder instruments, then some more kids singing christmas songs and occasionally 2 Polish guys singing Italian songs and opera.

All fucking day long.

Like Cultcross said there's teenagers thinking they'll make some money.

Gaaaaah.
This would be like my worst nightmare.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:33 PM   #8
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Unfortunately where I live there's a horrible catholic tradition of sending kids out panhandling for money between new year and January 6th, dressed as the "Three Kings" or whatever the fuck it's called in English singing bad christmas songs. Thankfully, they just bother you once a year and they usually shut up soon when you don't open the door.
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Old December 4 2011, 07:37 PM   #9
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

When I was doing youth ministry in the 80's, we took the kids caroling door-to-door. Not collecting money, just bringing some Christmas spirit to the neighborhood. It was fun.

When I was a child, we always spent Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle's. Everyone sang carols, with my uncle and a few of us cousins taking turns at the piano. Mostly we sang the common stuff, but my favorite was -- and still is -- Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle (aka O Bambino). Yes, this was the Italian side of the family.
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Old December 4 2011, 08:05 PM   #10
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

I remember people carolling when I was a kid--maybe in second grade, or thereabouts. In college, there were groups who went around campus carolling, just for fun. It was a good way to get into the holiday spirit.

Most people that do it around here do it just for fun, or as a hobby. There's a big Dickens Fair on Galveston every year (was this weekend, actually) and people go to perform, but they do for fun, not for money (mostly). I know some charity groups do it to raise money, but that's a pretty rare thing.

So, yes, there are still carollers, but not that many. It's just something people do, once a year, if they like to sing and perform.
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Old December 4 2011, 08:25 PM   #11
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

I too recall going caroling with my mother and siblings when I was younger. One year, my mother insisted I bring my trumpet and play instead of sing, as she thought it would be more festive. In retrospect, while I didn't really enjoy it at the time, I regret not taking advantage of the time with my family; I think I'd probably enjoy it a lot more today.

Christmas in Los Angeles is odd. We have our tropic/desert weather and architecture and greenery, plus the holiday decorations in the sunny warmth most of the time. For an East Coast transplant, it took a while for it to really stop being unusual to me. But I have seen and heard carolers since moving here, and certainly there are groups doing it back home in Virginia and DC.

YMMV of course.
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Old December 4 2011, 09:07 PM   #12
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

I just saw some carollers last week at the local Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Many people stopped to listen. A lot of them had instruments (in fact I think it might have been a university marching band).
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Old December 4 2011, 09:21 PM   #13
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Wait?! Caroling is dead?! Then I had a very strange and vivid hallucination last December.

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Old December 4 2011, 09:41 PM   #14
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Carolling isn't dead (unfortunately). I was in the Food City last night and 3 young girls and their dad were walking around store singing carols at the top of their lungs.

Now,

(1) I don't do Christmas. I suffer through for the kids, but the standing rule around here is I don't do Christmas otherwise-- don't get me gifts just cause it's Christmas, don't call me up to wish me a merry Christmas if you don't talk me the other 364 days of the year...in short I don't do Christmas.
(2) I don't like Christmas music regardless of the singer. Don't get me wrong, I've heard some beautiful singers over the years, I just don't like Christmas song, never had.

So add to that 4 people that couldn't sing if their lives depended on it (seriously, it was headache inducing how bad they were; a cat with it's tail caught in the door would sound like a grammy winner compared to these 4) and singing at as loud as they could. It was just ~shudder~...I was reaching for the Tylenol as I went out the door.

Several customers and staffers asked them to stop, and dear old dad would (each time) launch into a tirade about the war on Christmas and "Get into the spirit of the holiday".
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Old December 4 2011, 09:47 PM   #15
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Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

cultcross wrote: View Post
Carolling is alive and well this side of the pond. Both in public places (often with a charity tin) or door-to-door (again, with the intention of earning money but not usually this time for charity). There's a funny mix of teenagers messing about and thinking they'll make money from it and people who take it very seriously indeed.

It is also common to attend carol services near Christmas, even for the non- or only semi- religious.
Indeed, my other half is a member of a choir here in Bath and they've already done one carol service in town and have a few more planned for the coming weeks including a big performance this Saturday.
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