For some, it's an ancient and honored tradition. For others, it may be a lark that ends with choruses of "we should do it again next year."
Sure, Christmas caroling puts smiles on the faces of those being serenaded, but for those singing the joyful tunes, it can be a time of peace and joy as well.
Dress to impress. Ensure you are bundled up for the chilly winter air, or if indoors, have plenty of Santa hats on hand with reindeer antlers and Rudolph noses for the kids. Sturdy comfortable shoes are also important.
Light your way. Since Santa is the only one with a red-nosed reindeer to cut through the dark, bringing flashlights or clip-on reading lights to read the sheet music and navigate sidewalks and stairs is essential. Younger children can wrap a glow-in-the dark tube stick around their wrists so you can easily find them and they can be seen by any oncoming cars. Bring extras as kids love to wear them.
Know the music. Twelve months between caroling is a long time to remember all those verses. Be sure to have enough sheet music to pass around. Be sure you have your "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" but don't forget other gems like "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and "I Saw Mommy Kissin' Santa Claus."
Keep hydrated. Make sure you stay hydrated so you can hit those high notes. Be sure to bring a thermos of warm apple cider or peppermint hot chocolate while caroling outdoors. If you're staying at home, have a batch brewing to share with the guests. For the adults, spiked egg nog or cider will help keep the party going.
It's more then just singing. Caroling is a festive way to connect with neighbors, especially the elderly, so review your neighborhood to ensure you visit those neighbors that will especially appreciate a surprise visit.
Jingle all the way. Bells, cymbals and drum sticks are an easy way to keep your caroling lively and on the beat, while involving those too shy to sing. Also, to take things up a notch, identify the various vocal ranges in your group so you can add dynamics by having parts sung by those with bass, baritone or tenor voices. Purchased sheet music is more likely to break this out than just downloading the lyrics.
Timing is key. Make sure you start caroling after dinner time as no one likes to have their meal interrupted, but don't start too late as you don't want to wake younger children when they have already been put to bed.
Start the fire. Beat the cold with a blazing fire all night long. Your guests will be looking for shelter from the bitter winter, especially if you go caroling outdoors, so be sure to have logs pre-stacked and ready to go to keep the fire lit into the wee hours of the morning.
Keep the party going. A great compliment to caroling is a small Christmas performance. Have the kids prepare a funny skit, dance or song to share. Encourage local musicians of all ages to bring their instrument of choice to join in. Just don't forget the camera.
Bake up a storm. It's not the holidays without festive Christmas cookies and sweets to share with your fellow carolers, so dust off your Christmas tree cookie cutters and find that rolling pin! Any leftovers can go home with your guests -- they've earned them!