Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas traditions: carols

The brain has an uncanny way of forgetting the bad and recalling the good - although my brain is probably not 100% normal, since I rarely forget things :) The good part is that I am able to focus on good.

Growing up in my small town has its advantages and disadvantages. As a teenager and young adult I failed to see the advantages. Looking back it's a pleasure to remember that community feeling and the fact that like in an Irish legend the trees will get the news to the other corner of the town before I got home :)

There are many traditions related to Christmas - and not all of them we observed (for various reasons). One of the best, though, was listening to carols - there were a few singers (country and folk) who would get around the 'Christ' in Christmas and manage to sing some special carols. There was also the Madrigal Chamber Choir (one of the best there ever was) with their fantastic voices! And - the most magical of all - there was the caroling done on Christmas Eve. Group of young people will gather and start caroling (most like the trick-or-treating here): knock on doors, and when the door opened (most of the time) they'll start singing at the top of their lungs. In return they would receive apples, nuts, or 'pretzels'. If the host would know them (and most of the time they did) - the group will also be invited in the house and offered an aperitif, cookies, and sometimes wine or palinca (a spirit that's 90% alcohol!) or its cousin, tzuica (a mere 65-70% alcohol).

Once I reached high school I would go with our class caroling. We met early afternoon and started visiting all our teachers first (and some colleagues that were close to the teachers) - one of teachers lived in a suburb, about 5km one way from the centre of the town, we will travel by foot, through the snow all the way there and we were the happiest kids you've ever met! I remember a very snowy winter, the snow was about 4 feet high (and back then and there - not many snow plowers would clean the roads :)) and nothing would have stopped us!

We never practiced the carols - everybody knew them by heart and somehow we managed to keep it in key and not be a disaster. But we got together a few times under the pretense we are practicing - just to play guitar and sing campfire songs :) And eat cookies, of course! What's caroling (even pretense) without cookies?

I will let you listen to 2 of the best: The Madrigal Choir with a short and beautiful carol:

Madrigal Chamber Choir - Today Christ was born

And the best folk singer of my generation (a bit older than me): for years he went through parts of the country, in old villages and recorded the traditional carols, then brought them back to life and presented them to generations of people. His work is truly amazing: he took oral history and made it immortal, now even kids like mine are able to identify themselves with these traditional songs!

Stefan Hrusca - Wake up, hostess

This last song is about a hostess who's still asleep when the carolers come - and the carolers are hungry, because their mom got into tons of issues while baking the traditional food.


  1. The voices in the Madrigal Choir sound like bells themselves. Beautiful. Despite the cold and snowy conditions, your memories make these times sound so warm. It sounds like you had some really special and magical moments.

  2. Hi Alicia,
    I like that some places in this fast and busy world still slow down and enjoy traditions. Thank you for sharing your story with us. When I was a young teenaged girl I would go with a group around my neighborhood singing carols. I also did this in the Girl Scouts we would go the the Nursing homes to sing.


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