Monday, December 24, 2007

Silent nights without 'Silent Night'

Can anyone remember the last time Christmas carolers knocked on their door and sang "Away in a Manger" or "Frosty the Snowman?" The reason it's probably been a while, USA Today reports, is that caroling is increasingly passé among Americans.
The reasons range from the paranoid (it's a plot by secularists against Christians) to the prosaic (most people would rather stay home and watch football). Americans are too busy or too lazy or too intimidated to sing in public. People are afraid of offending neighbors or interrupting their privacy. Neighborhoods are less close-knit.

It hasn't completely disappeared, but caroling in the 21st century has adapted.

People carol on horseback in San Antonio and Virginia Beach. They organize to carol citywide to raise money for charity in St. Louis. They're professional singers dressed up in Victorian costumes in cities all over the country, caroling for cash (not figgy pudding) at parties and malls. And in California, caroling is a Hollywood spectacle on a truck with scores of costumed singers, dancers and musicians gamboling through the streets (only in L.A., kids, only in L.A.).

Here and there, in neighborhoods rich with community spirit, energetic organizers and church choirs, residents get together in evenings before Christmas to ramble around crooning Jingle Bells or Silent Night on sidewalks and porches, then dash home to drink hot cider and snack on sweets in a mood of Christmassy bonhomie.

"Maybe there's a need for communities like this, where people who come together are longing for a Norman Rockwell kind of America," says Sandra Aresta, one of the organizers of the annual neighborhood caroling in Chevy Chase West, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

But Rockwell's America departed with Rockwell, and in any case, caroling wasn't all that common in the USA to begin with. Polls conducted for the National Christmas Tree Association found that by 1996, only 22% of those surveyed said they planned to go caroling, and by 2005, that number had dropped to an anemic 6%.
(Hat tip: the new and improved DMN religion blog)


Colleen said...

Some years ago, we went caroling in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Nobody came out to greet us. No one. Then we noticed that there weren't really many Christmas lights adorning the houses. It dawned on us that we were in a largely Jewish neighborhood.

Our experience ended well. We walked over to a McDonald's on Pico Blvd. and sang our hearts out into the speaker when asked for our order. The staff totally laughed their heads off when we were done. They invited us in for complimentary fries.

Brad A. Greenberg said...

That's pretty funny, Colleen.