Last night was our 31st annual Christmas Caroling Party at our house. The old neighbors who have moved away still come back, the kids who used to tag along are now the adults and some of their kids—including granddaughter Zadie!— are now… well, the kids! We begin with mulled wine and a social gathering, then to the front room to sing around the piano and then out to the streets with the guitar. We look for lit houses and gather under the windows until we get someone’s attention. If they open the window or come out the door, we finish our song and ask for requests.
Feels to me these last few years that the general state of the nation’s Christmas Carol literacy is declining. When we ask, “Do you have a favorite?” there often is a long silence. So my new strategy is “Pick a letter!” “G.” And off we go with Good King Wenceslas or God Rest You Merry Gentlemen (we have alphabetized song sheets and we know how to use them!). People in general are so tickled to be sung to— that’s a good sign.
The past couple of years, we’ve swarmed on to the N-Judah streetcar like an invading mongol horde and filled the car with song—and so we do it again. I ask permission of the driver and he is a bit Scroogey, but finally relents. And so we jingle bell our way down two stops and always fascinating to watch the reaction of the people. Everyone’s portable device whips out, most to film and record, a few to bury themselves and pretend we aren’t there, and some— with my boisterous encouragement— to actually sing along. We get out at the business district of my little neighborhood, further than we’ve ever gone and get the idea to continue our caroled assault in various establishments.
And so we continue like stormtroopers of joy. We deck the halls of Pasquales Pizza, silent knight Easy Breezy Frozen Yogurt and go through the entire 12 days of Christmas as Yancey’s Saloon. And lo and behold, the customers (including an old alum sitting at Yancey’s bar!) are delighted and join in at the end. Then we take the N-Judah inbound to return home, another driver bah’ing and humbug’ing as we asked permission rather than forgiveness, but finally people just start singing and he gives up.
I believe we’ve created a new anti-terrorist strategy— the Joyerists! Randomly attacking unsuspecting innocent people with beautiful songs about peace and goodwill and chestnuts roasting on open fires, bringing a spark of happiness to sullen streetcar rides, overriding bad disco blared at bars, reminding pizza eaters what a neighborhood can be and how people joined in song brings solace and comfort and happiness, freely available to all (with a few rehearsed guitar chords and people brought up in good music programs).
And where was the newspaper? Where were the headlines about the Joyerist invasion? Where was a media more interesting in sowing hope than cynical despair? Maybe all those news pundits were out caroling with their families. Ha ha! In my dreams.
Meanwhile, all ye Blog readers, hire me out to your neighborhood and I’ll lead the hordes to the streetcar and restaurant of your choice. Joyerists unite!!