The History of Christmas Caroling
Although I could not find the exact date as to when Christmas Caroling began, it has been a long and standing tradition for people to gather around a crèche or a Christmas tree with family and friends and sing songs about Christmas, Santa Claus, and the birth of Christ.
I did find a reference to England and a possible beginning of the tradition of carolers receiving hot meals or money in return for their performance, which would account for the hot apple cider and cookies that are often offered to those who have caroled at a doorstep.
In many countries around the world, although it seems to be most prevalent in America and England, groups of people known as carolers go around to their neighbors singing songs of the season. Many hold flashlights or candles and afterwards gather at a friend's house to drink hot cocoa and cider.
Maria Von Trapp (the real Maria from "The Sound of Music") said during a South American Christmas Concert Tour in Caracas, Venezuela, "Singing at Christmas goes back to the early centuries of Christianity. It is the oldest of those innumerable folk customs still alive throughout the world during the Christmas season. Books have been filled, years have been spent in research on this subject."
St. Francisis of Assisi is thought to have been the person who brought carols into formal worship during Christmas Eve Sermons.
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