The Currier and Ives image of carolers at Christmastime may be a more complete antiquity than ever if an unscientific sampling proves to be true: Real-live Christmas carolers are becoming as hard to find as wooden toys made by Santa's elves.
"I think we have all gotten so busy that we don't take time to truly enjoy the simple pleasures of Christmas," said Candy Revels, a Midvale resident whose day-to-day life is incomplete without music. "We work too hard, spend too much money and hurry to get everything done instead of simply giving of ourselves at this time of year."
Caroling is a seasonal tradition rooted in 19th century England, where singers called "waits" serenaded the wealthy, performed at wedding parties and sang publicly with coins or food as their reward. The traditional English carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is both a joyful tune and the autobiography of the English caroler.
Even today the stereotypical dress for Christmas carolers top hats, warm capes and woolen scarves would put them comfortably on the doorstep of Charles Dickens, making merry with a song about figgie pudding, whatever that is.
Caroling maintains its luster for those who initiate an outing.
Pam Kidd said she took her Girl Scout troop caroling to convalescent homes near her home in Huntington Beach, Calif., but would have "fallen over in shock" if carolers came to her home there.
Shortly after she and her children, Cameron and Melissa, moved to Murray last year, the front doorstep seemed to spontaneously generate Christmas gifts, and the Smith family, from up the street, came caroling.
This year she corralled a few neighbor families for a caroling outing last week. Some among the families jumped at the chance; others had to overcome some formidable inertia. Janette Lewis was one of the willing neighbors. She says caroling "is the best part of my Christmas," all while acknowledging she sees fewer and fewer carolers at Christmastime.
"It creates this energy that just connects you with people. It's sad to see it go, but it'll never go for me," Lewis said. Still, "It takes effort to do it, and people are too overwhelmed."
Some carolers have found their audience online. One YouTube.com entry features a singer who edited together tracks of herself into a single rendition in four-part harmony of "Carol of the Bells." Other video entries follow neighborhood carolers going door-to-door, while still others in the Christmas-carol category are a little more, pardon the YouTube redundancy, quirky.The Web site ehow.com offers advice for people who want to host a caroling party but don't know how. Busy schedules aside, a caution amongst ehow's advice on hosting a caroling party may say a lot about why caroling is on the decline: "Many people are self-conscious about their singing, so keep wisecracks to a minimum."