Updated: Dec 7, 2021
For a very long time my friends and I went Christmas caroling. We figure we did that for over 38 or 39 years. We went door-to-door singing with guitars, banjos, and spoons and collected Christmas donations for a local day care center. And, as we were used to doing, we asked the question: “Do you have a favorite carol?”
About 10 years ago, maybe 15, we got an interesting surprise. One of our members had the flu. He couldn’t come with us, but he could hang his head out of the second story bedroom window to say, “Sing Ashes of Love.”
We were surprised at the request. Our group had been singing that song for quite awhile and one thing we knew was that it may be a lament, but it certainly was not a carol. We did what anybody else would do: We sang it.
That’s the stuff that legends are made of. Funny stories told year after year. We even sing Ashes of Love today as we move on to another house and a new request. Remembering stories like that is part of what makes caroling every year so much fun. That’s part of why we keep coming back.
How is it you might create such a great tradition? Try these ideas:
Pick Fun: We like singing together. Our laughter and fun is contagious so our neighbors like it when we come. In fact they often expect us!
Go Intergenerational: Caroling is great because everybody can do it. You don’t even have to sing particularly well. Kids come. Grandparents come. We have everybody in between. One year we even had most of a sorority join us. So, when you’re trying to figure out what you can do, try to find something everybody you know can do so you can invite them.
Don’t Worry About 35 years. All you have to plan is the next event. Figure out what you’ll do better this year. Before you know it, you’ll be able to look back over your shoulder and discover decades of memories following along in this event’s wake.
Do Meaningful: We carol to raise money for a day care. Caroling is the day care’s major fundraiser and has been going on in Nashville for over 100 years. When people hear caroling outside their front door, they get their wallets out.
What can you do? Celebrate a holiday. Celebrate an anniversary, a founding. Create an award. Let it be a time for the children to perform, dress up, or show off.
Before you know it, the event will become tradition. Around our house Christmas planning goes like this: “We’re going to buy presents, decorate the house, cook turkey, and go caroling. Right?”
In my book, Retire to Great Friendships, establishing traditions is one of the recommendations. Events like caroling infuse your network of friends with expectation, hope, and a sense of play. Can’t beat those things for making retirement valuable.
Here is a picture of our group two years ago. I'm the one on the right with a cowboy hat.
Merry Christmas. Happy traditions to you in this season.
the retired guy