Sunday, December 04, 2005

Caroling, Caroling, Now We Go Christmas Bells Are Ringing!

Caroling & carolers - another long lost tradition. Unfortunately, I think the lovely Christmas tradition of caroling for your neighbors has been replaced with collecting caroling dolls. Not that I think collecting any kind of doll is bad. It's just that caroling and singing holiday songs is such a lovely way to wish your neighbors a wonderful, holiday season. So, before we lose the tradition I think we need to understand why the tradition began.

Well, what exactly is a "carol." For most, a carol is a song of rejoicing associated with festive occasions and religious celebrations. The word "caroling" originally meant a circle dance accompanied by a song and carols have carried on the glad tidings of Christmas since medieval times. Unlike hymns, carols are often light and gay.

According to one religious legend, the very first carol was sung by the angels announcing Christ's birth to the shepherds. Some say the tradition of caroling began as early as the 1400s when wandering minstrels performed songs in exchange for donations to be given to the needy. Later, the English night watchmen would sing while making their rounds at holiday times. In the United States, until about 100 years ago carols were limited to only being sung in church. At that time, the practice of singing door to door became a popular and joyous Christmas event.

In the mid 17th century when the celebration of Christmas was banned, the carols might have been lost forever. But, the carols were kept alive for almost 200 years by people singing them in private. With the invention of inexpensive printing processes in the 1800s, traditional carols were published in book form.

The origins of many popular carols, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "The First Noel," are unknown. However, one of the most famous carols, "Silent Night," was written in Austria by Josef Mohr and church organist, Franz Gruber when the church organ malfunctioned on Christmas Eve. Hurriedly Mohr wrote the song and asked Gruber to pick out a guitar accompaniment. The rest is history.

I can remember caroling as a child. We'd go out on a cold, windy night with our little caroling books and would stop at each of our neighbors houses. I couldn't sing worth beans, but that didn't seem to matter to me. Maybe that's why some of the neighbors never came out. Sometimes our neighbors would offer us hot cocoa, sometimes candy. Most of our neighbors would come outside while we were singing. Some didn't. In any event, it was a joyous event and one that I've never forgotten.

For me, caroling nowadays involves creating caroling dolls or crafts. In fact, some of my newest dolls patterns are for Victorian carolers, a male caroler, female caroler, little boy caroler, and little girl caroler. They're still in the design phase, but should be done soon.

Well, you might not like caroling, but who doesn't love a Christmas Caroler doll. I've never seen one I didn't want (of course, I've never seen a doll I didn't want either.) That's beside the point. Anyways, I've made many caroler dolls myself either out of wood, cloth, terra cotta, pinecones, etc.

When I was a child every Christmas we'd have a family Christmas craft project. One year my Father and I made a white styrofoam church which housed a lighted angel. Outside it was decorated with wax candles (you remember those, don't you?) of lots and lots of carolers. The light from the angel lit up the church's steeple and was such a beautiful sight for many years. Styrofoam, however, doesn't last forever and neither do wax candles. In any event, the tradition of a family Christmas crafting event can be so much fun for the whole family and provide everyone with a lifetime of memories.

If you decide to get the whole family involved in a Christmas crafting project please make sure that while you're crafting that you're singing Christmas carols and have the hot cocoa waiting.

"Caroling, caroling, now we go Christmas Bells are ringing.................." Linda, when are you going to learn how to sing?

Come on everyone, sing along!

Caroling, caroling, now we go
Christmas bells are ringing
Caroling, caroling thru the snow
Christmas bells are ringing
Joyous voices sweet and clear
Sing the sad of heart to cheer
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

Caroling, caroling thru the town
Christmas bells are ringing
Caroling, caroling up and down
Christmas bells are ringing
Mark ye well the song we sing
Gladsome tidings now we bring
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

Caroling, caroling, near and far
Christmas bells are ringing
Following, following yonder star
Christmas bells are ringing
Sing we all this happy morn
"Lo, the King of heaven is born!"
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing!

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