So you’ve decided to go for a real, honest-to-goodness caroling party this year. Good for you. Very retro. Also warm and fun. My wife Marcia taught me a few things about how it should go. I have studied at her feet and this is what I have learned, beyond the fact that technically a carol party, in Marcia’s words, means going out with coats and scarves and trying to find someone home to sing to. Perhaps you could call yours a Holiday Sing.
Create a bunch of Song Books with clearly numbered pages. Include many more carols/songs/hymns than you have time for. Put the pages in one of those thin plastic 3 hole folders/binders.
Book a pianist in the house who can sight read. The pianist can be the one who tells everyone “Page 15. We Three Kings” and asks for requests out of the book.
Start with the sacred stuff.
Choose groups or two or three for some of the more lugubrious verses of the sacred stuff. Feel free to tell people as you are about to sing “We Three Kings” the following: “We’re skipping verse three about ‘Sorrow, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in a stone-cold tomb,’ Okay?”
After fewer than a dozen of the serious stuff, move on to the lighter secular songs.
Have a bunch of little bells handy for Jingle Bells. Everyone should have them.
For your big close, the ultimate audience participation song. Pre-print ten of the 12 verses of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” (Everyone sings 5 Gold(en) Rings and the Partridge verses.) Cut the verses into cute little strips and put them, folded, in a bowl. Have people reach their hand into the bowl and randomly pull a verse. Depending on the crowd size, each verse gets one, two or three voices. Depending on how thoroughly the eggnog was spiked, expect people to miss their entries. Repeatedly. And for goodness sake, decide whether it’s “Five golden rings” or “Five gold rings.”
Have someone with a guitar play and sing Jingle Bell Rock. That’ll be everyone’s cue to go back and hit the eggnog again.
Happy caroling and all the best this holiday season!