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How to Go Caroling

‘Tis the season to be jolly, all over the cul-de-sac, on your neighbors’ porches, against your neighbors’ most fervent holiday wishes.

So you’d like to go caroling! Good, good. To sing is to love. And to knock on strangers’ doors and burst into song is to love brazenly, like a lusty paramour stalking around a bar with a rose in his teeth and his genitals flopping out of his pants.

A Warning to Racists

Before you and your jolly entourage trundle out into the depths of winter, though, consider this: The average North American city is a vastly, almost overwhelmingly multicultural place, a sort of great urban aquarium hosting every breed of sea creature imaginable—even those weird ones with the phosphorescent lanterns growing out of their heads. And the holiday season is a time for joy, to be sure, but it is also a time to acknowledge, respect, and deeply fear our fellow citizenry’s varying beliefs and customs. Wishing fellow revellers a “Vrolijk kerstfeest!” in Zwarte Piet blackface is enough to ruin anyone’s kerstfeest: Suddenly, tears, and each slice of kerstbrood is tainted by racial intolerance, tasting only of shame.

Attention: Haters (Shut the Fuck Up)

For those who doubt the power of song: Years ago, when I used to teach elementary school phys. ed., my students found a dead bird in the ravine where I would send them to play whenever I felt lazy. A ceremonious burial took place, and then in lieu of a dirge or prayer the heterogeneous lot of them decided on a subdued version of, no joke, “O Canada.” Their beautiful voices—excepting one, shockingly tone-deaf kid who almost ruined everything—blended in harmony, a testament to music’s ability to transcend and unite. So what better reason, this holiday season, to go caroling? Perhaps only blackmail.

Inclusivity, Tolerance, Alcohol

With cultural sensitivity, a little creativity, and a steady intake of Captain Morgan-laced eggnog, your city can easily become one big concert hall for any door-to-door choir. And there’s no reason to alienate anyone, either. A simple translation of the first line of John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over)—”So this is Christmas…”—to “So this is Nondenominational Festive Winter Solstice Celebration,” or a few inclusive changes to the dreidel song—“Thing, thing, thing, I made it out of stuff/And when it’s something something, yadda yadda yadda”—make holiday hits enjoyable for all.

Your Group

The ideal caroling group comprises four to six singers, preferably sharing the ethnic makeup of students in a subway ad for state universities. Any more than six and someone is bound to feel redundant; any fewer than four and it’s just pathetic. (If you are the sort of tragic figure who is considering caroling alone, you’ve got more problems than can be addressed in an 850-word “think piece.”) Truly, one of the greatest things about caroling is that anyone can do it. That said, of your friends you should choose only the most hygienically sound and those that can sing in tune. Also, which ones will come with food, but are also weak and effortlessly enough pushed into a snowbank so you can steal it?

Appearance, Attire, Accoutrements

Getting the right look is important, too. You’ll need a good warm coat, toque, mitts, scarf, winter boots, as well as a Hummer H2 with winter tires and 20-inch chrome rims, blue underlights, and a personalized license plate that says, “SING R DIE.” A nice touch is to carry candles, especially if you get lost in a blizzard and need to torch your sheet music for heat.

The Knock

Now, with your repertoire set, your group chosen and bundled up against the cold, and the rum just starting to take hold, it’s time to head out. The first thing to consider is your knock, which should be hearty, eager but not hysterical, a good solid rap-rappity-rap that conveys enthusiasm and holiday spirit while ensuring the homeowner that you are not a gang of racist, flesh-eating zombies.


Sometimes, despite no one answering the door, clues will indicate that people are home (lights on, cars in the driveway, faces in the windows, voices whispering, “Crap, carolers! Everyone hide.”) In this case, the temptation to go in through the chimney might seem a good idea, and admittedly festive, but a better option is to just move on to the next house. Cities are big places. Screw those jerks, right? Their loss. Losers.


When a door does open—and it will!—you want the homeowner to feel not the frosty chill of evening, but the warmth of human voices rejoicing together in song. Open your hearts. People, after all, are opening their homes to you, and if afterward they then also open their wallets, who are you to say no? It’s the holidays, after all, and, like oral sex, an integral part of giving is receiving the gift.


So: on to the next house, and the next, caroling, caroling through the snow—and so forth. Eventually, the hour will grow late, your appendages will grow numb, and your vocal cords will be shredded to fleshy gore. Now is the time to pack everyone into the H2, blast the heat and the Jay-Z, and cruise on home. If you’re feeling ambitious you can invite everyone over for some secular snacks, but usually by this point, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just want to curl up on the polar bear rug by your fireplace, naked and alone, and fall into a festive, multicultural, blissfully silent sleep.