The Carol tradition

Is the custom of singing the festive song disappearing in the urban milieu, questions Chetana Divya Vasudev

Published: 21st December 2013 11:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st December 2013 11:54 AM   |  A+A-

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Not everyone waits for mid December to ring in the spirit of Christmas. In some houses, one might be surprised to see exquisitely decked up conifers, fairy lights and even a star or two as early as November end as they anticipate the arrival of those harbingers of Christmas cheer who go caroling within their parishes on evenings preceding Christmas.

With development catching up with us, as more and more people flock to Christmas parties, relish plum cakes and enjoy playing secret Santa, one wonders if caroling has taken a downturn.

Revival by Youth

When Savitha A Isaac, a student of mass communication, and other youth members of their parish in Rajarajeshwari Nagar - from the Church of the Holy Name of Christ - realised that caroling would be missing from the celebrations for the third year in a row, they decided to take it up.

"It's usually the choir that goes from house to house with the priest, singing carols in Kannada and English and reading the Christmas prayer," explains Savitha, adding, "Now most of them are old, so we thought we should do something."

Though she might not be a regular church-goer, Savitha believes that Christmas without caroling is 'just so sad'. "This is more than mere religion. There's a cultural significance to it, and when a tradition like this disappears, people miss it, which is evident in the way that householders stuff us with chakli (a South Indian snack), cakes, wine and juice so that all we've to do once we get back home, is to sleep."

The group goes knocking on doors of about 25 of its parish members every day, generally during the weekends. "It's so great to see their faces light up - this weekend is the last, and I'm just waiting," she says.

Wee hours

Hudson Memorial Church has three carol groups to cover the 900 to 1000 families, some of them living outside city limits even as far as Nelamangala. "We go caroling on alternate nights," says Monisha Priya, who has been part of it for five years now. "And we could cover anywhere between 15 to 40 houses per day."

So the group often gets back only at the brink of dawn depending on the kilometres and houses they have to cover. "Most youngsters' lives today is work centric," says 25-year-old youth convener of the church Ashish Babu. "I try and pull all of them in; and while spreading the Christmas message is our primary goal, it's also lots of food, fun and laughter - almost like a night out," he guffaws, adding that the  biting cold that chills their faces despite being wrapped up in sweaters, caps and mufflers is refreshing.

With a twist

For Sean Periera and Samuel Raghavan, whose passion is music, caroling is not just of the door to door kind. "Of course, this is a great tradition, which seems to be vanishing; we hear from our parents that once there used to be streets lined with houses lit up for Christmas, which two or three huge groups would cover practically on foot," says Sean, but as the duo is keen on establishing itself in the field of music - 'we're a little better than amateurs,' they jest - they also play at cafes, clubs and hotels.

"This way you get a larger audience without having to move around much, which works as the music is more important to us. Even showrooms are are keen on having carolers," Sean offers.

The two friends play music ranging right from Bob Dylan to more current tracks on regularly, both on acoustic guitars and Sean on vocals as well, apart from running an event management company.

William Joseph International Academy for Performing Arts will host 'There Can't be a Christmas without Music', where a chamber and an orchestra will revive old Christmas songs, inviting the audience, rather participants, to join in for the love of singing.

"The standard and enthusiasm for caroling has dipped. It's so easy to download tracks from the Internet that many people don't bother with accompaniments anymore," Chairperson Ashley William Joseph tells City Express, adding, "We want to just get them to pick up their guitars, base boxes or violins and join in - just like it used to be before."

m chetana.divya@newindianexpress.com

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