You know when you think you’re just going to hear a few Christmas carols being sung by your child’s class and it turns out to be a full blown church service? That’s precisely what happened to me recently. Perhaps the fact it was held in an abbey should have alerted me, but I couldn’t help but feel unprepared for ‘what I was about to receive’.
It wasn’t all bad though; the singing was great, the abbey was awe inspiring, I didn’t go up in flames and I learned a very useful lesson – some things never change when it comes to carol services. I’m willing to bet you’ll find the same things too:
1. There will be a child who actually sounds like an angel
To the boy who sang the first two lines of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, on his own, in the abbey, in front of hundreds of people – thank you, your voice is a rare and beautiful thing.
2. Two things about ‘We Three Kings’
i. The alternative version
If the person next to you also knows the “one in a taxi, one in a car, one on a scooter beeping his hooter” version it will offer you a wonderful moment of bonding. It will also offer you the opportunity to pass on a tradition when you teach it to your children later on that day.
If you’re really lucky, your child will later furnish you with the following bonus lyrics:
“Star of wonder, star of light, star that set my knickers alight. Westward leading, still proceeding, fill my pants with dynamite.”
ii. There is a pause
Don’t rush into “Oh star of wonder” – oh no. It actually goes “Ohhhhhhhhhhh (wait for it) …… star of wonder”. The woman next to me said it reminded her of the punk version of Nellie the Elephant. Which means that I now have two reasons to giggle my way through the carol. And two ways in which to get it wrong.
3. ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’ sorts out the regulars from the visitors
Doesn’t matter how many times I sing this, I always forget that “How silently, how silently” should be sung quietly (shhhhhhhhh).
4. You will revert to childhood at some point
I found myself raising my eyebrows at the re-telling of the immaculate conception and associated on/off/on again of Mary & Joesph’s marriage, especially as it was being read by a child. So when I heard a man behind me say, “Oh, isn’t the text wonderful”, I presumed he was joking. But as I turned to him in shared mirth I discovered that he was in fact A MONK. A monk that was stood next to A NUN. Neither of them were laughing. Oh the hot flush of chastisement coupled with wanting to cry with embarrassed laughter. Such. A. Child.
5. ‘Silent Night’ is best left to the children
Even the nun didn’t try “sleep in heavenly pea……..eeeeeeeeece”. Too high. Best sung by six year olds.
6. Two things about ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’
i. It’s that volume thing again – the choruses start quietly.
ii. It contains the line, “He abhors not the virgin’s womb”. And there’s no way I’m singing it. Update it to “he didn’t doubt for one second that there wasn’t a reason to totally love and respect that woman’s womb” and I’ll consider it.
7. You’ll probably cry at some point
For me it’s all about ‘Away in a Manger’. Can’t help it.
8. ‘Sing Hosanna’ – still challenging
When I was at school the infants used to add an extra “of kings” right at the end of the chorus. I went to one of my daughter’s first carol concerts and guess what? It happened then, and it’s still happening today.
9. You should shake hands with the vicar on the way out
Whether it’s “thanks for the carol service”, “Merry Christmas” or “that’s out of the way for another year”, it seems a fitting way to finish.
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