Caroling for Dummies

Park Slope Parents tips for Caroling this Christmas!


Caroling: It doesn't need to be a song and Dance

There comes a point in the run up to Christmas each year when I throw caution to the wind and switch the kitchen radio to a station like Lite FM, where I know I’ll find Christmas music.


This is an exercise in patience because I am often forced to endure two or three songs I loathe until they play a few I like. I put up with “I’ll be Home for Christmas” as sung by the sad, anorexic Karen Carpenter, Judy Garland’s morose “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, (pass the scotch) and that newish little Christmas-music-for-“The-Road" song, “Christmas Wish”, notable for its swelling refrain about ”lives torn apart”. I endure them all because I know “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” cannot be far behind. It’s then, once the music has lodged in my brain that my thoughts turn to caroling.


A few years ago in a flight of sentimentality I actually organized a caroling expedition here in the Slope, We’ll call it the “Batan Caroling March of Darkness”. I’m exaggerating of course. It was fun. It was certainly memorable. At one point, a women emerged from her door in her slippers and robe to ask if we had travelled from Ohio (apparently New Yorkers don’t carol buy Ohioans do) and I had several requests to do it again the next year.

In retrospect there are things I’d do differently. The good news is you can learn from my mistakes. The better news is that it doesn’t have to be picture post card perfect. It just has to be fun!


Tips for Caroling

--Don’t try to do the whole neighborhood. You don’t need to cover the area from Gowanus to the Park to have fun. When planning your route, take into account the age of your kids the state of the weather. You can always do a few more if you’re all brimming with enthusiasm

--Try to put together a group of at least 5 or six people -even better to go with your children’s friends so they can entertain one another. Smaller numbers make less impact and isn’t’ as much fun. Do it through your school, your block association or good, old Park Slope Parents

--Set things up before hand. Let people on your route know that you’re planning to carol make appointments with friends even! While not everyone celebrates Christmas or wants to hear you and your own very special reggae version of Jingle Bells, lots of people do. Let them know a window of time when you’ll be around so they can arrange to be home. And don’t forget to ring a few bells -save yourself the trouble of singing to festive looking but otherwise empty houses

--Picking people up as you go seems like a good idea, but you may end up with few people to carol effectively and it will take you an age to get from point A to point B. If you are doing multiple streets, skip the ones in between. You can always come back to them and you don’t want to wear out your voices in the meantime

--Do go early before the kids get tired and cranky, the earlier the better. Walking around singing is exhausting and you may find yourself trudging around the slope with a sleeping child on your back

--Do print out the lyrics for people to read from. There are lots of place online with printable lyrics. Here’s one

--Stick to the first verse most of the time. If you’ve never heard the second verse of a carol, there’s probably a reason and that reason is probably that it’s a bit whacked out. Who knew that the second and third verses of Come all Ye Faithful would degenerate into semi-coherent ramblings about Godheads and sin?

--Sing songs with your kids before you go – that is unless you want to sing only Jingle Bells. Lyric sheets won’t help kids who can read yet

--Be prepared to sing Jingle Bells, over and over and over. Kids like it. They remember it. They will sing it at least 50 times before the end of your route. The same is true of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Steel yourself; acceptance is everything

--Try to make sure that at least one of you can sing. As long as one person can carry the tune in so that others can follow along. Don’t assume that person is you. There’s nothing worse than facing the truth that you are essentially tone deaf in the middle of a caroling session

--Feed the kids before you go

--Feed the kids during the trip

--Feed the kids after you get home

--Dress appropriately: Gloves, hats, scarves long underwear – the works. It gets cold out there

-- Plan a nice hot drink for after – cocoa at someone’s house or at a café with room for everyone

Nice to haves:

--A thermos of hot drinks and bottles of water

--Hand warmers

--Lip balm

--Cough drops or sweets (to keep your mouth from drying out)

--Jingle bells or shakers so even the youngest kids can join in.