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Friday, December 05, 2014

Here We Come A-wassailing

I am really excited about today's topic!  While I admit that it was inspired by a holiday special that I already reviewed a couple of Christmases ago, I can expand on this topic to include some personal memories.

This is Day #5 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, and I certainly hope that you've been enjoying this year's edition so far.

Anyway, first things first.  I may as well talk about the inspiration behind today's topic.  A couple of years ago in this blog, I was remembering a Christmas special that I absolutely loved watching, but hadn't seen in years.  It was called "A Claymation Christmas", and it featured the wonderful format of animation style brought to us by Will Vinton known as Claymation.  It featured a series of Christmas songs performed by an orchestra of giant bells, singing camels, ice skating walruses, and a bunch of raisins from California, and it was one of the many Christmas specials that I really loved.  Unfortunately, it has not aired on television in something like twenty years, and I really wanted to see it again.

Happily, with the wonders of eBay, I managed to track down a DVD copy of the special (and might I add, I got a bargain on it as well), and it is now in my collection.  Since I received it in the mail, I reckon that I have watched it at least four times.  It's really that wonderful.

One of the more memorable segments of the show involved the two hosts of the show - the two Claymation dinosaurs hosting the show from a Christmas like village.  Periodically, the hosts would be interrupted by a group of animals singing songs and giving gifts of food to those nearby.  If I remember them in order, they were dogs, geese, pigs, and finally leprechauns.  Or, were they elves?  I can't remember now. 

The point is that all of these animals were trying to sing the same carol, but they kept messing up one word.  The dogs kept singing "Here We Come A-waffling".  The geese were singing "Here We Come A-waddling".  And the pigs were singing "Here We Come A-wallowing"!

The leprechaun elves eventually got the song right.  The correct lyric was "Here We Come A-wassailing".  But what exactly does "wassailing" mean?

Well, it's an old English term that essentially means (drum roll please)...

...going around door-to-door pitching Christmas cheer, singing Christmas carols, and exchanging Christmas pleasantries.

Of course, in the United States, the song is more commonly known as "Here We Come A-caroling".  But regardless of how you say it, I would think that most of us have gone around the neighbourhood singing Christmas carols to people, or performing Christmas songs at a concert.

I know I've taken part in plenty of "wassailing" myself.  Not that I was any GOOD at it, mind you.  I am notoriously tone deaf and would make some American Idol rejects sound like Luciano Pavarotti in comparison.  But wassailing is an activity that anyone can take part in.  You don't have to be a perfect singer.  You just go out and do it.

When I was in elementary school, it was a common practice for all of the kids to be summoned to the gymnasium the week before Christmas and sing Christmas carols as a school.  I don't know if schools do this now, but I remember singing my fair share of Christmas carols from first to eighth grades.  Some kids took it seriously, while other kids just used the assembly as a way of goofing off.  Still, it was nice for all of us to come together as a school and sing carols. 

It was also pretty hilarious trying to see all the female teachers trying to pull off the "nine ladies dancing" part in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol. 

(Personally speaking, I liked fifth grade the best when it came to Christmas singalongs.  The five golden rings part was always everyone's favourite.  We would have to make rings with our arms over our heads.  Heck, at the age of 10, everything entertained me.)

I also remember the one and only time that I had to sing Christmas carols at a school concert in front of all of the parents and teachers.  I think our school was having an open house at the time for the holidays, and all the primary grades were forced to perform a medley of Christmas songs.  Unfortunately, as I already mentioned up above, I was tone deaf, and easily drowned out the singing of the kids around me.

Of course, my first grade music teacher (who admittedly was a real dirtbag who I was happy to see leave school after first grade) had the solution to hide me in the back behind the curtain, so that nobody in the crowd would see me.  Of course it backfired.  I sang even louder so that my family could hear me.

Needless to say, that was the very LAST Christmas concert I was ever allowed to sing at for the remainder of my time in elementary school. 

Now, playing Christmas music was a different story.  My vocal cords were terrible, but my baritone playing skills were passable.  And I absolutely loved playing my baritone whenever we had a Christmas concert.  Mind you, I didn't like every single piece we played.  I swear, if I had to practice "Jingle Bells" one more time, I would have strangled someone with an entire string of sleigh bells.  But all in all, they were fond memories.

And, wassailing wasn't just limited to singing at my school.  For some reason, I remember that we had lots of opportunities where we had special Christmas activities scattered all over the school.  We were all divided up into groups, and in each classroom were different activities.  We would play "reindeer games", we would make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, and we would learn about the various traditions that went into Christmas celebrations.  If I remember correctly, there was one year in which we learned about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well, which I thought was an awesome touch.  I firmly believe that we shouldn't exclude any holidays.  We should celebrate them all.

And really, the whole spirit of wassailing is exactly that.  Going around the neighbourhood, spreading words of kindness, singing songs of joy, and infecting everyone around you with the spirit of the holidays. 

Now here's my question?  Who wants to come a-wassailing with me?  I'll even throw in a couple of waffles from those nice claymation puppy dogs!

Or, you could just stay tuned for Day #6.  The movie posts return tomorrow!

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