A Caroling We Will Go

Tis the season for caroling. Singing together in joy and attempted harmony.  I grew up with this idea, singing alongside my brothers and sisters. Two neighboring Catholic families joined together. Our family of six kids, plus theirs, ten kids strong. A gathering filled up our houses, especially if spouses and friends joined in, which happened in the later years.

Christmas Eve always felt special. We dressed up with festive jewelry, had good food, and plenty to drink. After a couple of hours of visiting, first at our house and then at theirs, we assembled, rehearsed a few verses of a popular Christmas song, and put on our jackets to brave the 50 °F night. That’s winter in Southern California, and it never interfered with our mission to take our singing to the streets and carol around our block.

In one big blustering mass, we puffed up our chests and belted out Christmas tunes, lucky to hit notes singing the same words. La la la and humming came in handy. We traveled from house to house, surging and merry, barely able to contain ourselves. Oh, how everyone enjoyed our goodwill gesture! We sang a maximum of three songs, carefully selected between each house, alternating the slow Silent Night with a peppy Jingle Bells.

After about thirty houses we concluded our masterful hymns at our neighbors, the Painter’s. They had lived in the neighborhood the longest and had a full acre yard, even a few roosters. They received us with smiles and, without fail, presented us with a box of See’s Candy after what was always our last song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It felt like a reward.

The black and white box. Music to my ears.
The black and white box. Delicious. This was before the red wrapping you see now during the holiday season.

I don’t quite remember what then happened with that box of candy, if we shared it or not. I must have got at least one piece. It didn’t really matter. The appearance of the black and white See’s Candy box left me a blubbering mess of joyful tears. Oh, they cared, they cared…or maybe it was out of sympathy. It always made feel a little high on life. We did some good in the world. We used our voices, however out of tune. Whatever their reason, it made the season all the more merry and bright.

Following the presentation of the candy box, our two families parted ways to attend midnight mass. My family to the Sears catalog, minimalist church a few blocks from our house. We usually walked if we weren’t running too late. Our friends drove to their more formal, taller, stain-glassed church a few miles away.

This tradition of ours continued for a least a decade or more. My memory is fuzzy about this. Sure, things changed over the years. The group lost shape and focus, although growing in numbers with more friends, with some family members straggling behind. Tis the season to be jolly, filled with spirits, too inebriated to participate fully.

Our neighbors began to sing the third verses in harmony, complete harmony I tell you, and assumed the front stage position at the door, while those less dedicated mouthed the words in the back. It became slightly more serious and falling apart all at once, squeezed from the middle until it just burst into nothing. One year we simply stopped. At least that’s how I remember it.

I wondered if the Painters waited up for us with the box of chocolates ready.

As I was saying, delicious....
As I was saying, delicious….

I almost wanted to walk over to explain, “I guess we don’t do this anymore.” Did they miss us? Did they wonder for a couple of years, as I did, if we would return? It was a good time while it lasted and, for me, it never lost its kick or exuberance.

So, grab a friend and sing together a little holiday song. It will make you smile. Do you have any caroling favorites?

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51 thoughts on “A Caroling We Will Go

  1. Amy, this is a fabulous memory to share for the season. I have no doubt they had the box of candy ready that first-missed year …. and probably the second as well. Sure they missed you … probably more than you think. After all, why else would they have bought the candy!


  2. We used to go caroling when I was young. Though I loved the singing and music, I didn’t enjoy the experience. Now I understand it was because I was a budding little introvert, but back then I didn’t understand why I loved doing it within our own home but not around others.

    Lovely post. Gave me some nice nostalgia. And pictures of chocolate are always enjoyed. 🙂


    1. Our group was so very big, Carrie, it was very easy to hide. You could be a couple of rows back from the door on the lawn or whatever! You maybe would have enjoyed this better! I liked singing, especially when no one could hear me. Ha ha.

      Thank you! Doesn’t that chocolate look divine?


  3. My childhood best friend, a few years older than me, would kick off the caroling with all her chamber choir friends in four part harmony right across the street from me. Their singing was a treat, positively epic. And although my alto was faulty at best, I loved joining them caroling around the neighborhood. I’m five states away now and both our families moved out of the neighborhood, but she still hosts a Christmas Eve night with those friends who now have kids of their own in the high school’s chamber choir. I love knowing it’s still out there, ageless. Like the See’s candy! Thank you for sharing!!


    1. Wow, Jennifer, they must have been a treat with four part harmony! I don’t think we ever accomplished anything close to that even with the more serious singers of our group. Caroling seems to be a rare thing these days. It’s great they have kept it up and have passed it down. I’d like to try to get the caroling going again. The holidays make me think of traditions, what I experienced and what my kids are experiencing. We have caroled a couple of times in the neighborhood and really enjoyed it. These days, it seems harder to do because everyone is so busy! You’re welcome! Thanks for reading.


  4. A family, memories, and long ago eaten chocolate are something you remember, good and bad. I so get the need to create tradition with our children. Eamon plays piano and asked us to sing the Christmas carols while played them. He had the biggest grin on his face. If it feels good, go for it.
    Lovely post Amy! The burst analogy! Loved.


    1. Holidays make me think of how my kids are experiencing traditions. You make them happen, right? You could to decide what to do, but of course not how they’ll turn out. That sounds like a lovely tradition right there with Eamon. I wish we had a piano in the house! Thank you, Shalagh. Love, Amy


  5. What neat memories. Do you have a favourite carol? It’s hard for me to choose. Silent Night, Once in Royal Davids City, Little town of Bethlehem? I remember how much fun it was to sing out the 12 days of Christmas, it was quite a challenge as a 5 year old to remember it all and not run out of breath at the end!


    1. Thanks, Stephen. Oh, I should have asked that in my post! I will add it….Hmmm. Hard to choose for me, too. Once in Royal David’s City…I am unfamiliar with this one. Today, I will say I like “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” I always liked that one! We never attempted the 12 Days of Christmas! I applaud you for that one!


  6. Those photos of See’s candy make me weep with longing. I don’t know why See’s never opened on the East Coast. I personally could keep them in business.

    What a great memory, Honeybee. We never went caroling, it just wasn’t a thing in my neighborhood. But I have other fond Christmas memories. And like your caroling, some of our traditions just stopped after a while. Sad when they ended, but I’m fond of thinking back on them now.


    1. Weebs, I had no idea that See’s Candy was not on the East Coast! I just assumed it was. Have you ever had it?! I love See’s Candy, especially around Christmas time. It’s just so festive.

      It’s strange when things end, isn’t it? I guess many things have their own time span, take their course, and then *poof* they’re gone! I’m glad you can think fondly of some happy times. Hugs, Weebs!


  7. I can just picture you all singing carols Amy
    and they do bring out the festive season so
    wonderfully 🙂

    I hope that your Friday has been a lovely one 🙂

    Andro xxxx


      1. No nothing creepy, apart from one of my neighbours who seems to be doing a lot of gardening at night 😦

        Just kidding…

        Your Friday Fiction is catching I think 🙂

        Andro xxxx


  8. I never went caroling growing up (maybe it was too cold) but I have gone a few times and it’s a fun time. My favorite Christmas carol is O Come O Come Emmanuel, I think. I love that one.


  9. What a lovely memory, Amy. Both sweet and sad. Traditions are a wonderful thing (especially when they end with a box of chocolates) but it is sad to think of them coming to an end.
    Is See’s a local chocolatier? I have never heard of them.


    1. This memory always makes me smile, even if it changed through the years. Nothing ever really stays the same I guess. Still, a very happy memory! Have you never heard of See’s?! Wow, I guess I naively thought it was international. Duh. At least national. I guess people on the east coast have not hear of it either. So, See’s must primarily be on the west coast. I’m going to have to look it up now. It’s so yummy! A big seller during the holidays.


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