Doug Peterson is a favourite blogger of mine, and every Sunday, he writes a Whatever Happened To post. These posts bring back memories of the past and reflections on the present. Yesterday, he mentioned in his blog post that he would be writing a Christmas-themed one this Sunday. This reminded me of my own Christmas-themed throwback from the other day.
It was just after dinner, and I was going to take my dog on an evening walk. When I opened the front door, I was shocked to see a large group of carollers bringing joy (and music) to the neighbourhood. My parents were there, and they were soon out on the porch, with my mom even singing along to Jingle Bells. This made me wonder, when was the last time that I’ve seen and heard carollers? I feel like it might have been when I was a child.
My biggest Christmas carol memory is from elementary school. For the whole last week of school before the Winter Break, there was a group of carollers, who used to gather and sing in the front foyer each day. Some days, they even served hot chocolate to students as we walked by. We used to meet in the gym every morning to sing along to the carols posted on the wall — with an overhead projector of course. 🙂 Many of the carols were Christmas ones, like Jingle Bells, Frosty The Snowman, Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, and Deck the Halls, but there were also some Hanukkah holiday songs, like Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. As someone who is Jewish and didn’t celebrate Christmas at that time, I appreciated the Hanukkah songs, but I also knew and loved all of the Christmas ones. I blare many of them on the radio now for the month of December as I drive to school. Yes, these are technically Christmas carols (mind you, without any biblical references), but they seemed to provide a shared cultural tradition and community feel in school. Every child knew the words to every one of these songs. Every single child.
About four years ago, the school that I was at had a holiday assembly, and we sang some of these same carols from my childhood. Few, if any, students knew the words though — particularly any words beyond the chorus.
- I have to wonder, is there value in creating this shared tradition in schools and communities, and might there even be a way to make this more multi-cultural and representative of different school communities?
Please don’t get me wrong here.
- Many schools have holiday assemblies, and often carolling is a part of this experience, but do students know enough of the words to sing along?
- While many children might enjoy the music and happily move to the beat, is there something extra special about uniting in song?
- What might be a way to make this happen again?
I would love to hear your carolling experiences of the past … or maybe even the present. These songs always bring me some holiday cheer, and as we all dig out from the Blizzard of 2022, maybe we can use a little extra joy in our lives.
Thank you for the kind shoutout, Aviva.
You brought back a wonderful elementary school experience. Those that were allowed were invited to an assembly every morning leading up to the Christmas break. We’d all sit on the floor and our music teacher had her piano rolled in. We all had Simpsons-Sears Christmas song sheets and she’d pick a number and we sang them as a school. I think the school was 4-500 students at the time.
When I had my own classroom, there were a few young ladies in my homeroom (whatever happened to homerooms) who were fabulous singers and they’d organize a sing along just for my homeroom! It was awesome.
It took a different turn – I happened to mention it to the vice-principal and he invited them to come to the office and sing a couple each morning over the PA for the whole school! Before that, I think we had just a public assembly that was just to celebrate the end of the term.
Thanks for bringing back that memory.
Thanks for the comment, Doug! These sound like wonderful memories. Every week, your Sunday posts take me back, and I’m glad my post could bring back some great memories for you as well. Yes, school is about academics, but it’s also about so much more than that. I wonder if carolling allowed for this other school “learning.”
I’m sure that, in the music teacher’s mind, there was some academics. For us, we just enjoyed the moment and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I agree, Doug! Great point about the academic connections to music. I’m also thinking about the Kindergarten Program Document and the links between music and language. Maybe some additional academic learning along with just pure joy … Nothing wrong with that at all!