Dark Origins of Popular Christmas Traditions, Explained

USA News

In the 1700s, carolers would sometimes break down doors and demand food and drink from residents.


Caroling used to be much more aggressive.

fernandogarciaesteban/ iStock

Singing carols door-to-door may be an innocent holiday diversion today, but it was once a controversial and potentially dangerous practice.

In a piece for Salon, author and historian Thomas Christensen recounted how the carolers or “wassailers” of the 17th century would arrive at homes unannounced and demand to be given the residents’ finest food and drink.

They would sometimes threaten violence and rape, destroy property, and sing songs with lyrics such as, “We’ve come here to claim our right/And if you don’t open up your door/We’ll lay it flat upon the floor.”

One minister in the early 1700s railed against the observance of Christmas, and especially the practice of caroling. He complained that caroling drove people to “Rioting, Chambering [fornication], and Wantonness.”

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