Caroling in New Jersey

Allison, your local Italian.

Family has always been a central part of my life. I’m Italian, and Italians do the whole family thing well. It’s right up there with our core values of carbohydrates, tomato sauce, and speaking with our hands.

Every year my cousins get together and celebrate Christmas. We plan a dinner at a nice restaurant, we have a grab bag, we play stupid and overly competitive games, and above all, we have fun.

This year we went caroling, knocking on the doors of strangers, which shocked a lot of confused New Jersey residents, who were mostly expecting the congregation of young adults on their stoop to be an angry mob, or perhaps the IRS. The population within the northern states of America doesn’t have a general comprehension of hospitality, and they certainly don’t have a place in their understanding for a large group of people standing outside their door holding a pitch pipe and bells.

A few people opened their door and quickly slammed it shut upon seeing our eager faces. We watched as porch lights mysteriously turned off as we approached their lawns. A number of haggard looking moms tried to hand us money in hopes that we would take the donation and leave. But some hapless souls opened their doors and allowed us, a haphazard group of overly excited untrained singers, to belt out our out-of-key tune before clapping lightly and exclaiming to the five year old clinging to their leg what just happened.

“Johnny, wasn’t that great?”

“Timmy, go get some candy canes for them!”

“Wow, this is great, what group are you guys from?”

And we would laugh and my brother would crash on the single symbol he brought with him while my oldest cousin would announce that we weren’t a trained chorus, despite our truly fantastic singing, but we were family.

“Cousins Christmas!” Our enthusiastic smiles beamed back at them.

This proclamation was always met with shock.

“That’s amazing,” they would stutter out, as they feebly tried to recall when they last spoke to their cousins.

“What a great idea,” they would manage to say, as they scanned their memory for recent times they spent with their own relatives.

My brother would crash on his cymbal again, the sound filling the soft silence that welled up in the short moment.

“Merry Christmas!”

And we would tromp across the street to the home of our next victim, laughing and bickering over what song to sing next.