Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Should you hide from carolers?

December 19, 2013

Mik - Amplifying iPhone Case | UncommonGoodsAh, the charming holiday tradition of singing carols door to door. It’s actually an ancient practice, once linked more to Twelfth Night (January 6) than to Christmas, and the word “wassail” comes from a Middle English wish of good health. All of that seems benign enough, except that sometimes wassailing was less than polite. Crowds of drunken young men would go from house to house, demanding food, drink or money in exchange for their songs. If the homeowner was less than hospitable to these “friends,” the crowd might simply continue to make noise outside their windows until given what they came for, or they might resort to acts of vandalism or even violence. And this was not strictly an Old World problem. In 1823, when Clement Clarke Moore was penning A Visit from St. Nicholas, with the words “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” there were similar bands of rowdy Christmas drunks terrorizing the neighborhoods of New York City where he lived.

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