Confused by Christmas Caroling, Fa la la la la, la la la la

It doesn’t take much to confuse me. That’s especially true this time of year. I don’t completely understand why we insist on celebrating New Year’s Eve. I know it only comes around once a year and it’s a chance for a fresh start. August only comes around once a year, too, and we don’t make a big deal about that.

Another thing I haven’t figured out is Christmas carolers. I’ve had these seasonal singers come to my door a couple of times over the past few years. While I appreciate their willingness to share holiday vocal stylings with my household, I am not sure about the etiquette for these visits. Honestly, sometimes it’s awkward. My attention span is not as long as some of the songs and my television remote doesn’t work on them. I mean, after they get to “Seven Swans A-swimming,” I’m ready for them to fast-forward and move on to the next house.

And what am I supposed to do when they first arrive? Do I go outside without a coat (against everything my mother ever taught me – I might catch pneumonia) or stand in the open doorway, sending my furnace into overdrive in an attempt to heat the entire neighborhood? Is it rude to just listen and nod your head or are you supposed to sing along?

What about when the song is over? Can I make a request for another number? Would it be wrong to send them down the street with a “long distance dedication?” (Yes, I’d like you to sing ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ on the Carlson’s front porch, please.)

Is it proper to invite all 18 of them inside for eggnog? Do you tip carolers like you do the pizza guy? Should I give each of the singers a piece of leftover Halloween candy? I never know what to do, so I just smile and say “Merry Christmas.”

Maybe my paradox stems from my exclusion from caroling. I call it the Rudolph complex – I don’t get to play any of the reindeer games. People always want my wife and daughter to be a part of the caroling crew; they have beautiful voices. My son sings well and can play practically any instrument you put in his hands, so he’s a high draft pick, too. They’re all popular. Then there’s me. When singing groups are being formed, I suffer flashbacks from grade school: standing alone along the wall, the last kid picked for the team. Eventually, I’m chosen to participate – as the van driver, transporting the carolers from one gig to the next. But with my musical (in)ability, they don’t even let me control the radio.

There was the year that I was invited to participate – provided that I dressed up in a Santa suit. I guess it’s expected that Kris Kringle has a baritone – I mean, monotone – voice, so it doesn’t matter that my vocal chords are hopelessly tied in a knot. So there I was, waddling around with a padded belly (yes, it was padding!), boots about three sizes too big and a beard apparently coated in itching powder, making an appearance at the conclusion of each musical number.

I will say that it was nice to bring some holiday cheer to other people. The experience also has affected the way I treat the Christmas carolers who come to my home. While they sing, I’m always looking for the non-singer in the Santa suit. In fact, I usually give him all of my leftover Halloween candy with specific instructions to split it with guy driving the van.

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