by Maren Beazer
Caroling has always been a part of my Christmas.
When I was young, it involved loading the car with boxes of homemade chocolates and bread, the products of many hours Mom spent in the kitchen. My sisters and I would precariously perch the breads upon our laps, and heaven help the girl who squished one. Then, we would make the pre-appointed stops — the same ones every year — to the neighbors, widows and widowers and shut-ins.
By the time I was in high school, I could tell you which songs should be sung at each stop, for each family had their favorites. The Haws demanded “Star Bright” and the Seamons always wanted my dad to recite Luke 2 accompanied by “Silent Night.” Occasionally, our routine would change — sometimes because of death, but more often because my gregarious father would have found someone else who needed a little Christmas cheer.
We found it was necessary to sing for more than one night to include everyone, but Christmas Eve was always spent singing carols and visiting. We never worried about interrupting anyone’s Christmas Eve festivities, because we knew that we were a part of their traditions too.
It seemed only natural to continue the tradition in my own family. Instead of Christmas Eve, we carol on a Sunday before Christmas. We have added Santa hats and Rudolph noses to our version of the tradition. We have a few special stops each year, but our routine is more fluid and spontaneous than was my parents’.
I have young children whose attention spans in climbing in and out of the minivan and singing carols over and over is more limited than mine. And surely my teenagers roll their eyes way more than I ever did. I’ve had to make peace with the less-than-coordinated, more chaotic nature of my family’s Christmas caroling, so I was unprepared for the rush of emotion — tears welling in my eyes, throat constricting making singing impossible — that I experienced this year as we caroled our way into the assisted living apartment of one of our regular stops.
The sound of our boisterous Christmas carol preceded us, and I saw Charles’ face light up with a megawatt smile as he recognized us. I was struck by the realization that it made a difference to him. Perhaps for the first time, I understood with clarity the reason that my parents loved this tradition.
They knew, as did the savior, about ministering to individuals. They never worried about recognition and praise for grandiose accomplishments, but focused their efforts on remembering and loving those who needed to be remembered and loved.
For my family, the caroling tradition is here to stay. Maybe next year I’ll teach my kids to sing “Star Bright.”