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Monday, January 23, 2012

Whatever happened to carolling parties?

This past Christmas season, a group of immigrants from India has taken the idea of traditional caroling parties to a new level.  Members of TCFMN
played the custom forward, caroling at homes of members and friends who'd invited them for designtated  nights, mid-December 2011..  Perhaps the carollers recall, as I do, groups of little boys bearing home-made stick and tissue paper stars, lustily rendering a carol or two before shouting "Meddy KristaMUSS, Happy KristaMUSS, Meddy KristaMUSS!!" and collecting donations (ostensibly for their Sunday School) throughout Christmas Eve nights, mid twentieth century, in India.  Perhaps some of the Minnesota carolers were those very little boys, later roaming their neighborhoods with friends and a loudspeaker, blaring carols from the back of a truck, now, with their young families, driving in cars around the Twin Cities to sing for others.

My husband and I knew it would be a unique experience, so we'd invited American friends and neighbors in for conversation and cider before the event.  The carollers were scheduled to come and sing at around nine p.m.  We had just warned our guests that "Indian standard time" usually meant later than planned, when an advance team arrived to check that we were ready (!). It was a good thing, too, because no sooner had we scooted our chairs and sofa to the walls, to better accommodate the group, than the carolers themselves arrived at nine p.m.on the dot.

The carolers literally burst into the room, an accordian player confidently leading the way, singers of every age pouring in, to the strains of 'O Come All Ye Faithful,' a tall boisterous Santa and a handful of timid children following them.  Johnson, the leader, strode around the group (as far as 'stride' was possible, since they and we were packed into our living dining room, knee to knee and side to side!), singing and gesturing to increase the volume and the enthusiasm.

We 'audience' laughed with delight as the carolers sang song after song with such joy and enthusiasm that outdid our imaginations' wildest interpretation of the first Christmas's angel rejoicing. Aware that the group had two other homes and dinner ahead of them that same evening, I invited them to partake of cider and treats we had waiting for them, but they chorused "We have MORE!!" and launched into carol after carol again. 

Finally there was a pause.  Santa reminded us of the original reason for the season, young Stephen read out the Christmas chapter from Luke, and his father John recalled the message, that the Christ of Christmas came for all, a visible form of God's love for the world. Then it was the littlest children's turn to shine.  Even the youngest, clinging sleepily to her father until then, brightened and ran forward to join them ato sang "We wish you a merry Christmas!!" And of course, did not have to be prompted twice to claim a cookie or too.  It was an evening to cherish.

So why am I still remembering Christmas caroling in the late January warmth of Southern India?  Perhaps it's a far stretch, but I can't help comparing it to the way Muslims and Hindus call the faithful to worship: calls of the muezzins from minarets in different neighborhoods some of the first sounds of early morning, the last of evening, float out over the town. Itinerant priests visiting homes and businesses to deliver a prayer and a blessing.  carolers in Minnesota.  entering homes to call to remembrance the one God who reigns over all, though we know and seek him by different names, but always with a song, praising God from whom all blessings flow.

May your homes be filled with faith and song, and a very happy new year, in 2012!!