Grand Theft Aural: My Great Christmas Caroling Adventure | Street Jazz

Grand Theft Aural: My Great Christmas Caroling Adventure



I wrote this some time back about the great extortion racket known as Christmas caroling. If you ever get a chance to take part in this - especially if money changes hands - it can be great fun.

I think I may have done this piece on the radio, or I had planned to. I ain’t for real sure . . .

Grand Theft Aural: My Great Christmas Caroling Adventure

A few years ago I interviewed a KJ (Karaoke Jockey) who told me that when the British contingent of Wal-Mart associates hits Fayetteville, one of the places they love to descend upon are the local Karaoke bars. While this may well be a sign of some of national emotional disorder, there may be historical precedent, in the time-honored tradition of Christmas caroling.

Yes, Christmas caroling, where gangs of musical thugs go door-to-door, bellowing out Christmas hymns and carols until someone forks over some hard-earned cash in order to make them go away. That I have taken part in such Grand Theft Aural is proof that even the most talent -less among us can be rewarded, if they just refuse to leave someone’s doorstep.

In 1969, my father was stationed at RAF Bruggen, part of a small American contingent on this British base located in northern Germany. Around mid-December on that cold December, my fellow Boy Scout Peter Charleston came to me with a money making scheme for Christmas - we’d go Christmas caroling.


My only experience with Christmas caroling had been watching old movies on TV, seeing snugly dressed folks merrily singing songs on street corners, enchanting those passing by with their holiday cheer. I had no idea that one could do this and actually make some sort of profit.

“Okay!” I cried. “I’m in!”

I was in the choir in our high school, located at AFCENT, in Holland, which mistakenly gave me the idea that I could actually carry a tune. It was this error in judgment that led me to join the Madrigal Club at Zweibrücken High School, a few years later.

Sometimes all you have to do is show up, and they’ll shove a music book in your hand.

The logistics were pretty simple. You just went door-to-door, clutching your book of carols, and began sweetly singing outside the door. That was the theory, anyway.

In reality, we were tramping through the snow on a bitterly cold winter night, stumbling around the housing area of RAF Bruggen. Once at the door, you found you actually had to sing pretty loudly, because not only were you competing with the normal sounds of life in a home (TV, radio, people having dinner), but you were also in competition with the other roaming bands of savages, doing their best impressions of “Angels we have Heard on High,” or “Deck the Halls.”

The louder you sang, the warmer you got, as well.

Some seemed really appreciative - perhaps we were the first singers they had seen that night. Some were almost literally throwing money at us by the time we got to the third or fourth line.

Still, no one told us we were awful, and we came back for two more nights, until we had the entire base housing area covered. The loot that I earned was how I paid for my Christmas presents that year.

Being paid to go away?

That’s a great idea, no matter what time of year it is.


Quote of the Day

The Sabbath is what you make of it - a holy day, a holiday, a rest day, a sports day - or, if you’re not smart, another work day. - Herbert L. Goldstein

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