or a Guide to Safe and Sensible Carol Singing.

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And if you haven’t started already then you need to get on with it now. According to centuries old tradition carol singing – or ‘Thomasing’ as it was once known – should kick off on St Thomas’s Day, the 21st December . On this day people would go out into the streets, singing carols and collecting small gifts of money and, note this, drink!

Some say that the word ‘carol’ comes from the Greek ‘choros’ which means ‘dancing in a circle’. Others say the word is derived from the Latin ‘choraula’ which means ‘a circle dance’. Whether it is Greek or Latin could this dancing in a circle be the result of too much Thomasing? Is this why Rudolph has such a red and shiny nose?

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Little of this affected the residents of north St Margarets and the congregation of All Souls Church when they went out carolling last Sunday. Not only had they happily started 10 days too early but to make matters worse they completely ignored the Ten Point “Carol Singing Guide” produced by the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company.

Published in 2009 this was a project to promote carol singing, to make it safe for the singers and to encourage the listeners at home to be generous rather than turn off all the lights and pretend to be out. (Hands up all those who haven’t actually done this!) Manager John Coates explained…

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“We want to encourage people to go carol singing this year and for householders to give them a warm reception when they knock on people’s doors…..There are so many people who have got out of going carol singing that we felt we should start from the ground up. And with health and safety around the corner there was nothing we could leave out.”

The guide consisted of a check list of things for carol singers to do and avoid- and a poster that householders could stick in their window. Headlined ‘Carol singers welcome here – we accept tidings of comfort and joy!’, the poster reassured door-to-door carollers that their presence was welcome.

Top Ten Tips for Carol Singers included…

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  1. Sing in a small group rather than alone or in twos; this will be safer.
  2. Consider identifying the church or charity you’re singing for so people are assured you’re official.
  3. Wear reflective clothing.
  4. Never stand and sing in the road itself.
  5. Don’t carry too much money. If donations are coming thick and fast, make provision to drop off some of the money or have it collected from you.
  6. Make sure you know the neighbourhoods you’re singing in and plan a route, ensuring this information is given to someone ‘back at base’ so they will know where you are.
  7. Don’t carry candles if they’re not protected by a lantern.
  8. Ensure children are always accompanied by an adult.
  9. Do not call too late in the evening.
  10. Do not be too ‘pushy’ with the collection tin.

In the introduction to the Guide entitled “How to ensure you’re safe and welcome this Christmas” – Michael Tripp, the chief executive of Ecclesiastical Insurance, explained: “This guide gives you some handy hints and tips which will help you hit the streets in full voice with confidence.”

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The Guide was produced in response to a survey carried out in 2009 that suggested that 74% of the British public believed carol singers were not as welcome as they have been in the past. The survey revealed that 29% of the public did not want singers knocking on their door and 19% wouldn’t open the door to them. Rather sadly the Carol Singing Guide summed it up as, “People just aren’t as keen to open their doors these days.”

This was not the experience in North St Margarets. Despite the pouring rain residents seemed more than happy to open their doors and to give generously to the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice (See Point 2 on the Carol Singing Check List)… and when the wind and rain reached Gale Force 11 the entire choir took a tip from St Thomas himself and retired to the pub to find the Christmas spirit!

— from Martyn Day