Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Caroling Story

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas
And a happy new year!

When I was growing up, a whole bunch of neighbors would carol through the neighborhood. We walked up to the peak of the neighborhood and back down, in a long circle among houses that we never saw any other time of the year. Of course all of us kids went too, singing loudly, playing with the wax that melted down over the tinfoil cups we'd made for our candles and momentarily burning our fingertips. DeeKay had a great tolerance for heat, loved hot baths and hot tubs, and could cover all of her fingertips with wax caps. Ria could too, but that's because she was the toughest kid in the neighborhood excepting her brother. I think she could even drip wax onto the back of her hand.

We walked and sang to darkened houses, and I loved caroling, even though there were so many of us that I thought we were singing to empty homes. There was one woman who was in charge, handing out the booklets of carols that had "Property of Mount Olympus Neighborhood Association" stamped onto the inside front cover. She called out the carols by page numbers, and a nearby adult would always make sure the kids knew what page we were on. Every couple of blocks we stopped and sang a carol, and between corners we sang the figgy pudding song - we always went on even though no one ever gave us any, whatever it was.

My favorite carols were (and still are) the religious ones, despite my not being religious at all, let alone Christian. I especially liked the ones sung in Latin, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "In Excelcis Deo," but also liked "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Silent Night" (especially the German verse, even though it's as hard to sing as the national anthem). Even as a kid the one I disliked the most was "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer."

After the caroling was over everyone would go to the house of J Jump Joyful's family. There was always a big buffet of Christmassy treats. The ones I remember best were the ones JJJ, Ria, and Eri would make with their mom out of marshmallows and cornflakes, but there were brownies, cookies, and bourbon balls (which were much too bitter!), cheese and crackers, and a universally ignored tray of carrot and celery sticks. There were olives which we would stick on our fingers and nibble at when the sweets overcame us, and cold eggnog and hot mulled wine. As our neighborhood was blessed with perhaps an unusual number of great piano players, there were more carols, really raucously played, once we got back to the house. JJJ's folks had a ton of kids' instruments and we banged plastic bongos and kit drums and shook tambourines and maracas as loudly as we could.

That is my favorite Christmas memory and it happened that way for years.

No and DeeKay, with Mom in the background, Christmas 1976

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