Are all the carol singers trick or treating?

Victorian carol singers outside a snowbound cottage

My dad hated carol singers with a venom. He refused to answer the door to them and would become apoplectic if we timidly suggested giving them 5p.

I don’t know why this was. His general Scrooge-like attitude to everything that required payment? Memories of a viciously Catholic upbringing that had him do his time as an altar boy, forced to listen to dolorous carols for hour after lightheaded hour? An aversion to anyone who came to the door, for whatever reason?

Whatever, we used to be forbidden to move as we listened to the warbling outside, while he rolled his eyes and turned the TV up.

Carol singer dolls

This is how I imagined carol singers when I was a child – because I never got to see any of them

Some nights there would be three or four groups visiting, everyone from posh kids with clarinets doing In The Deep Midwinter to the local oiks in santa hats, belting out We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

I am now, as a homeowner with a front door of my own to sing outside of, in a position to do it differently.

But I can’t – there are no carol singers anymore.

Carol singers, Alma Tadema

NOT my doorstep. My doorstep doesn’t have an oil slick on it

It has been years since we had anyone screeching Silent Night on our doorstep.

Is it because they don’t teach carols in school anymore? 

My childhood Christmasses were stitched together with renditions of Once In Royal David’s City, Oh Come All Ye Faithful and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The first Christmas song I ever learned was Away In A Manger. Now I assume it is All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey version).

Or is it a reluctance to ask the neighbours for money? Don’t people have spare change in the house anymore? Is it not worth two hours getting a sore throat and cold feet for a couple of quid and a pocketful of floury mince pies?

Singing carols for Scrooge

See! Singing carols can make your scarf turn a cheery red

Or do too many people claim they are ‘spiritual but not religious’, meaning they are physically incapable of singing carols? I’m not Christian (blame a Catholic childhood…) but I shamelessly deck the halls at Christmas and hum O Little Town Of Be-ethleham’ while opening my Advent calendar. Anything else is humbug.

There is also another reason, if the amount of sweets we get through on October 31 in recent years is anything to go by – everyone who used to go carol singing is trick or bloody treating instead.

close up photo of jack o lantern

A Festive Family Walk

It’s what you do, isn’t it? A lovely long walk with the family and a bouncy dog, blow off all those cobwebs, burn off some of those Christmas calories and work up an appetite for the next feast.

So this is how it actually goes: Husband announces: “Right, are we going on this walk or not?” and puts on his boots.

First hurdle, as always, is breaking this desperate news to my poor son, Boy Genius, who has vital work to do on his laptop in his new fleece onesie. After faking tears, then anger, then sulks, he demands to know just why he has to come. “So we can spend some time as a family just chatting,” I say brightly. “So why don’t I stay here and Facetime you?” he groans.

Leaving him to get dressed, I quickly wash up the 126 glasses that have materialised in the kitchen since breakfast, wipe down all the surfaces, and sort out the recycling. I run upstairs to put on thick socks, set my daughter’s hair and the give the over-used bathroom a quick spray n clean. This is when a Holmes-style examination of the electric toothbrush heads arrangement reveals Boy Genius hasn’t brushed his teeth since Christmas Eve. Boy Genius is summoned to the bathroom and given a stern talk, and brushes his teeth while I put away all the ironing I did earlier.

Balloon Copter

It looks so exciting!

Oooh such fun - and educational too!

Oooh such fun – and educational too!

Balloon copter in the grass


Balloon copter flopped

You can SMELL the disappointment, can’t you?

Boy Genius then decides the walk will be half-worthwhile if he brings one of his presents, a balloon helicopter from the Science Museum, with us. At least, it says Science Museum on the box, but any scientists who actually had anything to do with this ear-splitting flop want shoving in a box and out with the recycling themselves.

Back downstairs, Husband’s tiny concentration span has dissolved and he is playing virtual table tennis. Once he is re-roused, the dog is harnessed and our pockets stuffed with plastic dog-dump bags. Only now does The Festive Family Walk begin.

Boy Genius cheers up telling me the pros and cons of dual play on Portal 2. Daughter climbs trees, Husband complains about the mud, and the dog tries to savage a lovely old English sheepdog called Alfie that got within six feet of her. She celebrates this victory by rolling in fox shit.

We go home, I shampoo the dog and then we spend a lovely family afternoon dipping mini-doughnuts in warm chocolate sauce. This is our new festive family tradition.