Caroling, a Christmas tradition contemplated with nostalgia and fondness can, in reality, be an exhausting ordeal for the carolers as well as the carolees. One December, many moons ago, my husband cleaned up our big old farm truck so that the young parents and children from our church could brighten that wintry evening for the elderly and shut-ins.
Bundled against the frosty air, we clambered into the back of the truck. Some of the less agile women and small children had to be lifted by a few of the husky men and pitched into the bed, still smelling of manure (the truck, not the women and children). Then my husband revved up the motor and off we lurched into the starry night, singing merrily.
As our crowd of carolers overwhelmed the smaller homes and apartments, some of the shut-ins had to be assisted out of their cozy chairs, or warm beds (at least one was down for the night, or so they’d thought) to stand on frigid porches, leaning on canes, clutching a shawl to their shoulders, to smile and wave, expressing their pleasure that yet another group brimming with Yuletide cheer had remembered them. I wondered if they later requested that the church remove their names from the list of shut-ins.
Those individuals with ample room invited us in for refreshments, insisting we share the trove of cookies we and other groups had brought them. It wasn’t long before the children launched into sugar highs and we adults, who hated to disappoint our hosts, began to feel rather ill from all the treats we’d consumed–worsened by the jouncing truck.
And then there was the problem with our route. Not having planned it very efficiently, a member of our zealous band would suddenly remember some neglected soul across town which meant a long chilly ride in the teeth of the biting wind. Despite our exhaustion and rising queasiness, we felt compelled to push ever forward, dragging our fussy children along, to bring the joy of Christmas at last to the needy folk in the nursing home.
As we trooped up the hall, I overheard one elderly resident, weary but resigned, comment, “We’ve had carolers every night this week.”
A second woman replied, ‘But it means so much to them.”
And that, my friends, is the last time I ever went caroling. But for those of you who insist on this holiday undertaking, I suggest giving your route some thought beforehand, limit the number of homes you visit. Here’s a wild thought, maybe even call ahead to see if people actually want carolers. I don’t–unless you’re wearing costumes like the ones in A Christmas Carol and sing those lovely Old English tunes. Also, find some other transport besides the back of a freezing cold farm truck, and bring treats you actually want to eat because they will be offered to you.