The Hesitant Caroller

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by Tim Burdick on 23 December, 2014

December 6th, 7 pm on Charles Bridge.

It didn’t feel very Christmas-y. Fog blurred the night landscape as the castle’s, restaurants’, hotels’, and pub lights were only soft glows along the Vltava river. Reena, Mark and I were getting ready to sing on the Old Town side of the Charles Bridge. My fellow carollers shuffled through song sheets as we waited for missing members to arrive. A light rain had been falling all day, but now suddenly had stopped at the last moment.

Staring at the mobs of tourists, I burrowed behind my scarf. What were we doing here? Hecklers were going to boo, or worse, throw beer cans at us. But, I hated to back out on a friend. We have been caroling here for years. It is a beloved tradition amongst our group.

Loud crowds pushed and shoved each other as they crossed the bridge. I prayed for rain, snow, divine intervention, anything but no such luck.

At the last minute, Reena’s friends appeared out of the crowd. None of whom could (or wanted) to sing, although one stood next to me (and lip synched during our brief performance). We marched out onto the bridge, and gathered around one of the larger statues.

Suddenly, a strange thing happened. A British woman joined us and then, a young Turkish woman as well who confessed to being Muslim, but still wanted to sing a few songs. So we did all the classics: Deck the Halls, We wish you a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Silent Night, etc.

In the end, we concluded a 30 minute concert. For the record, there were no jeers, taunts, or shouts, only faint clapping at the end of each carol. Once I overcame my fear, I peaked over my song sheet and saw smiling crowds of passing tourists, couples stopped and listened for a song or two before they disappeared into the foggy night.

Who were our new members? Professional singers on vacation, guardian angels or just two strangers who wanted to join the choir. Seriously, in four years of singing on the Charles Bridge, nobody has ever joined us out of the crowd.

I guess, Christmas is a time of letting go and learning to let your heart make a joyful noise.

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