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Suzanne Tobias: Holidays offer a good excuse to sing

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at 11:34 p.m.

The remnants of our Thanksgiving turkey weren’t even in the fridge last week before my children started hassling me about my singing.

Here’s the deal: I love Christmas carols.

I love the somber, religious ones like “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

I love the ones from my childhood – anything from “John Denver and the Muppets” or the Carpenters’ “Christmas Portrait,” because to me, those albums are as much the sound of Christmas as anything by Bing Crosby or Andy Williams:

It’s Christmas time and time for a carol

Time to sing about the little King

To fill the bowl and roll out the barrel

Have ourselves a fling …

I even love new Christmas songs from collections that show up on iTunes every year, despite my annual prediction that there can’t possibly be anything new and decent in the holiday genre. But sure enough, I’ll hear Carly Rae Jepsen or Justin Bieber on the radio and start singing along:

Everyone’s gathering around the fire,

Chestnuts roasting like a hot July,

I should be chillin’ with my folks, I know,

But I’mma be under the mistletoe …

I sing a lot anyway, all through the year, but the holidays offer a sort of sing-aloud permission slip, a free pass to hum, whistle or sing all you want because you know the all the words and people expect it.

They do expect it, right? Why else would we hear the same songs over and over each year, if it’s not part of some collective cultural conditioning? If they played the Gettysburg Address on the radio for weeks we’d start repeating that, too, especially if they set it to some brassy, Michael Buble-style riffs.

So I sing. And my kids roll their eyes. And that’s the way our holiday season usually proceeds. Until recently, when I decided to crank it up a notch.

“This year,” I told the family, “we’re going caroling.”

Blank stares. Even the dogs looked baffled.

“We always say we’re going to do it, but we never do,” I said. “This year, it’s happening. Nothing big, just a few neighbors – up and down the block, maybe a little farther.”

No, Jack corrected me. We don’t always say we’re going to do it. You say we’re going to do it.

Maybe so, I said. But this year, we’re doing it. Come on! It’ll be fun!

Hannah, almost 15, sighed. “I’ve never even had formal voice training,” she said.

Me either, I countered. I could see Jack cut his eyes toward my husband and whisper, “Obviously.”

I explained that we’d print song sheets and carry flashlights. People would hear our merry crew and rush to their front doors or out onto their steps to listen. We’d smile, shake our jingle bells, wave and move on. Just think of the joy!

“I don’t understand,” Jack said. “Do we get paid?”

It took a while, but eventually they got the idea. I’m still working to gather bodies and schedule a night for our caroling adventure, but the promise of cookies and hot chocolate will help. I think this might actually happen.

In the meantime, I’ll once again be joining a group of coworkers to carol during The Eagle’s annual holiday open house next week, 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Eagle building, 825 E. Douglas. Stop by to watch the presses, visit with Santa, have some refreshments and register for prizes.

And when you see me in the lobby, sing along. You know you want to.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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