Monday is National Go Caroling Day. Before you go, follow these tips so everyone has fun.

Centuries ago, troubadour and minstrel were legitimate occupations. Traveling musicians would entertain and occasionally set to music the particulars of significant news events.

Alas, you never see THAT on cable news networks. Nor is it common to see street musicians wandering around your neighborhood.

But Monday might be the exception. Dec. 20 is National Go Caroling Day. The origins of this annual event are murky — we assume it was created by the Interstellar Music Publishers Cartel or a similar commercial enterprise in an effort to sell more Christmas sheet music, but we aren’t certain.

What we do know is Go Caroling Day gives you an excuse to gather your friends and relatives, walk (or drive) around your neighborhood and spread holiday cheer while spending time with people you enjoy.

The concept seems simple enough, but there are a few things to think about if you’d like to put together a caroling party Monday.

Tips for caroling

DON’T FORGET THE LYRICS: It’d be embarrassing to gather everyone together, knock on a neighbor’s door, arrange yourself in a semi-circle around the porch light, and the best you can do is, “Joy to the world … um … uh … fa, la-la, la-la, figgy pudding.”

So, don’t assume everyone knows all the words, even if you choose century-old carols. No one knows the second verse to “Jingle Bells” (it involves someone named Fanny Bright), and you run the risk of some prankster in your group loudly vocalizing the entertaining, if somewhat juvenile, “Batman smells” or “shotgun shells” versions on the second chorus.

With the Internet, it’s easy to find lyrics. The words to many Christmas songs, such as “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” are in the public domain, so you won’t run afoul of copyright violations (some arrangements or recordings are copyrighted, of course).

Use your favorite Internet search engine to find “Christmas song lyrics,” print several copies, staple them together and you’re done. See the end of this article for one song to get you started. (For extra sophistication, get lyrics with British spellings, featuring random letters jammed into words such as “favour,” “olde” and “noelleelellellellele.)

HERE’S THE PITCH: Perhaps someone in your group has a pitch pipe, or a harmonica or some other pocket-size instrument to give you the first note. It’s nice when everyone sings in the same key, and a pitch pipe is easier to carry than a pipe organ.

If you don’t have one, here’s a suggestion from Karen Darby, a member of the Sound Celebration Chorus, a Sweet Adelines barbershop chorus for women in Springfield, Ill.: “The leader could call out the parts of the verses ahead of time. That’s how we teach music in Sweet Adelines — we sing a phrase, and others repeat it. Before you know it, everyone is singing along.”

DRESS FOR THE WEATHER: The same advice you’d use for any other winter weather activity applies here. Dress in layers. Provide protection for your head and extremities — a hat, earmuffs, gloves, warm shoes or boots. If the weather is really nasty, consider going another time.

Some carolers like to go in period costume. Unfortunately, these costumes are often from periods where freezing to death was more common. The recommendation here, after consulting with our attorneys, dotting the “j’s” and crossing the “x’s” and checking the weather forecast, is take advantage of modern advances in cold-weather attire, such as fleece jackets and microfibers. Better safe than sorry.

SPEAKING OF BEING SAFE: Keep an eye on the ground. Some of your busy, unfriendly, injured or ill neighbors may not have cleared all the ice or snow off the sidewalk or driveway. So step carefully — nothing ruins a festive holiday caroling event like a twisted knee.

PLAN A ROUTE: Whether you plan to stroll the neighborhood or caravan to visit friends, think about where you want to go and how to get there.

This is key if you’re planning to drive from place to place to go caroling — it’s not so much fun if half your group is wondering whether you meant Woodland Avenue, Woodland Road, Woodland Street or Woodland Trail. (“Hey, hon, do we know any of these fleece jacket-wearing people fa-la-la-ing around the porch light?”)

Song selection

Darby not only sings, but she’s also been a church organist for many years. Some of the songs the Sound Celebration Chorus likes to sing include “The Christmas Song” (the one about chestnuts roasting on an open fire) and “Winter Wonderland.”

But Darby also says people like to sing traditional songs at Christmas: “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “The First Noel,” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Darby says the easiest of those songs to sing are “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” “Joy” just goes right down and back up the musical scale, for example.

“I think many people will attest that when they hear the strains of ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Joy to the World’ or any of the other religious carols, that they are drawn into thinking about the real reason for Christmas: the celebration of the birth of the Lord of all creation,” Darby said.
After caroling

Unless we have unseasonable warmth, chances are you’ll be feeling winter’s chill when the evening’s singing is done. Few things warm the body like a hot drink — and it gives you a chance to be social with your fellow music-makers.

The following recipes, and others, can be found online at The Recipe Box, a service of The State Journal-Register.

FOR A CROWD

Hot Mulled Cider

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 quarts apple cider

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon whole cloves

3-inch stick cinnamon

Combine ingredients and gradually bring to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes.
Makes 2 quarts (half-gallon).

FOR YOU AND A COUPLE OF OTHER PEOPLE

Fluffernutter Hot Cocoa

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup Fluff (marshmallow sandwich spread), plus extra for topping

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup peanut butter chips

In a small saucepan over medium, heat the milk until hot but not boiling. Whisk in the Fluff, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Whisk until completely melted and smooth. To serve, top with additional Fluff.

Makes 1 serving.

One song to get you started

“Silent Night,” composed by Joseph Mohr/Franz Gruber

VERSE 1

Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon virgin mother and child,

Holy infant so tender and mild.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

VERSE 2

Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar.

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ, the savior is born. Christ, the savior is born.

VERSE 3

Silent night, holy night. Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.