Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Fa-La-La Phooey!

In lieu of her non-traditional childhood, my mother tortured us every Christmas in the most inhumane way possible: She made us go caroling. A week before the grand event, the oven would be turned on and run for three straight days. We made cookies until we couldn’t stand the sight of them: Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter with the criss-crosses, lemon bars, and those little powdered-sugared nuggets with crushed almonds. Heavenly, unless you had to bake them all and scrub the mixing bowls after each round.

Do you actually know anyone who goes caroling during the holidays? I don’t mean to imply socializing with a church group or a service activity with the Junior Beta Club. I mean door-to-door knocking and bellowing to complete strangers who stand uncomfortably while you hold out a plate of treats as a bribe. You can almost see the thoughts pass through their minds: Should I invite them in? Do I have enough hot chocolate? Hey! Isn’t that the kid that egged my car on Halloween?

When I a child, I found the whole scenario to be a grand adventure. In my innocence, I sang unabashedly, handed over the treats with reverence, and was certain I’d turned someone’s miserable holiday into a shining memory. Then puberty hit. Along with my five brothers and sisters, the yearly caroling tradition my mother started became primeval torture. We grumbled from the kitchen to our victim’s driveways, we sang at a whisper, shuffled our feet, and stared heavenward so we didn’t have to see the patronizing smiles over the thresh hold. None of it mattered though, because my mother sang loud enough for all of us. You couldn’t suck the Noel out of her no matter how hard you tried.

These days, since I have passed through childhood, slogged through puberty, and managed to grapple with the joys of mid-life, I remember caroling as some of the best times we shared as a family. The joy it brought me as a child makes me smile. The humiliation of my teenage years makes me laugh. Tradition, I’ve finally learned, is everything.

So each year as the holidays roll around, the ovens in my house run for a week straight. There are sugar cookies, cookie bars, brownies, and gingerbread. My own children help decorate and lick the bowls, and disappear when it’s clean up time. It isn’t exactly a replica of my childhood memories, but it’s close.

Now I confess, those years of caroling did scar me despite their poignant effects. I do not drag my children door to door and sing at the top of my lungs. Instead, we drop off the treats, ring the doorbell and take off running. I call it our “Secret Santa” tradition. My kids thought it was the best adventure ever when they were young. For now, because of age and hormones, they just think it’s embarrassing.

Thanks, Mom!

Danielle Thorne currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. For sweet romance and adventure reads, swing by her website at: to find out more about her recent release, BY HEART AND COMPASS, and her new Whimsical Publications romance: JOSETTE.


Celia Yeary said...

DANIELLE--YOU made me smile! What a fun post, and no, I never went caroling, nor did anyone ever come to my door.Thanks for telling us about your memories! Merry Christmas! Celia

Bekki Lynn said...

Thanks for the heartfelt laughter. You painted a vision I enjoyed watching.

I'm sure your children will grow up with fond memories of cookie baking, and appreciate being spared the caroling.

Savanna Kougar said...

Danielle, that was lovely. I grew up when the tradition of caroling door-to-door was winding down. At least, in my part of the country.

Though, I always liked it when a group came by and sang. It's a good thing we didn't do that as a family, though, since most of us weren't that good at singing.

And, baking is always good. Have the very merriest of holidays.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Danielle - I love the idea of Secret Santa!

We have a solo choir lad who sings for us each year and takes a pride in it when he sings on our doorstep. It's really nice.

Happy Xmas!