The Tradition of Christmas Caroling (plus wassail recipe!)

  • Celebration of the Day: Go Caroling Day
  • Christmas Song of the Day: Here We Go A Wassailing
  • Recipe of the Day: Wassail

Today is Go Caroling Day and if that very idea makes you feel shy, you’re not alone. While 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, only about 16% go caroling. The only carolers I have seen in recent years have been retained by restaurants to entertain patrons, by shopping centers to entertain shoppers and at events like Christmas Town in Busch Gardens. Of course, carols are sung in church. But the custom of going door to door and singing appears to be slipping away.

So, maybe going around and singing to strangers is not for you. Well, you can still sing today! Here are some ideas for singing without an audience…because singing is actually very good for you. It improves your immune system, it keeps your lungs healthy and it improves your mood.

  • Sing along with Christmas music in the car. Even better: go see Christmas lights in the neighborhood and sing in the car.
  • Sing Christmas tune while cooking or baking. If it feels lonely, get Alexa or Echo to sing with you πŸ™‚
  • Sing some carols in the shower.

When I was a young girl, I appeared in local theater productions, and I was in A Christmas Carol for three years in a row, playing a Cratchit family member One year, the director proposed that the cast don our Dickensian costumes and go out caroling in one of Richmond’s historic districts to promote the play. I will never forget singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “The Holly and the Ivy” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” with my cast mates at night, standing on cobblestone streets in my long dress, wearing an old-fashioned hat. It was freezing cold and it was like being the character. I loved it.

But that was the only time I got to go Christmas caroling. Sigh. I will sing in the car today.

But how did the custom of caroling come to be?Β 

Caroling is a tradition that goes back to the middle ages, when most people were peasants. In those days, they celebrated Twelve Days of Christmas between December 26 and January 6, so there was plenty of time for….er….celebrating! They sang songs to the landowners who in turn provided drinks and maybe a treat or light meal. Landowners were wished good health and harvest in the coming year. Wassail was a mulled and spiced ale or drink that could be offered to the carolers.

(Maybe caroling doesn’t sound half-bad, now, huh?)

Wassail (the kind made with apple cider) was a good drink for carolers brave because it warmed them up and relaxed the vocal chords for singing. Maybe…too much wassail…and too much singing! But hey, it was Christmas, they were having some fun.

Here is a recipe for Wassail (non-alcoholic and boozy versions)

Combine in large pot:

  • 8 cups of apple cider
  • 2 cups of orange juice
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice

Add these spices:

  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 12 cinnamon sticks.

I would also add some star anise, but if you don’t like the flavor, leave it out. Bring to a simmer and heat for 20 minutes. Garnish with apple and orange slices. If desired, add some brandy or cognac.

That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? That makes about 10 servings. I guess you could cut it by half or fourths for a family party. I think I will make some tonight!

Here is the perfect song for Go Caroling Day…Here We Come A-Wassailing

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.


Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbors’ children,
Whom you have seen before.

God bless the master of this house
Likewise the mistress too,
And all the little children
That round the table go.

Good master and good mistress,
While you’re sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.

There are more verses but this is the essence of it πŸ™‚ Let me know if you go caroling!



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