Miles Kington: 'Tis the season to be non-faith-specific

If there is a preponderance of male carol singers, some of them should sing falsetto
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I have been asked by a government department to bring you the latest official guidelines governing carol singing. Nothing could give me more pleasure.

Here they are.

1. For the purpose of carol singing, no naked flames should be used in lanterns or lanthorns, eg candles or any kind of unguarded wick. This is a blatant fire hazard. Battery operated lanterns are quite suitable as long as they conform to BSI standards and are non-dazzle.

2. Mince pies are offered by householders to carol singers should not be pre-heated, as the impact of hot mince pies on cold hands may have an adverse circulatory effect.

3. Mulled wine should also be refused. More accidents are caused each year by the spillage of mulled wine than those caused by any cold drink.

4. Walking in the dark is hazardous. We recommend a minimum of one torch per two singers.

5. No more than two units of alcohol should be accepted on the doorstep. The police have been ordered to stage a crackdown on drink/singing this year.

6. Carol parties should, as far as possible be equal opportunity, ie half male, half female. If there is a preponderance of male singers, every attempt should be made for some of the male singers to sing falsetto. If the majority of singers are female, we are not sure what to recommend.

7. A large number of people outside a stranger's house is, technically, an unlawful gathering and the police would have powers to arrest any carol party whether they were committing an offence or no. In most cases, of course, it will not come to this, unless you are acting provocatively, causing an affray, looking Brazilian, etc, in which case the police would be within their rights to open fire.

8. To avoid misunderstanding, we recommend that on approaching a new house, you knock or ring at the door first to make your presence know, and to avoid alarming the residents. It is only polite to request their permission to engage in the act of singing, as with some simple formula as: "We intend to regale you with a seasonal carol, but will quite understand if you request us to desist."

9. Some elderly householders may request to see your carol-singing licence, and are well within their rights to do so.

10. Your carol-singing licence should have been applied for last August. Without it you may not trade as a carol singer.

11. You may, if licensed, solicit a contribution to a charity. A receipt must be given on request. This entitles the householder to a 24-hour cooling off period. If, in that time, he or she changes his or her mind about his or her contribution to the aforesaid charity, it must be refunded to him on demand. Or her.

12. It has been decided that "Christmas carols" should in future be known as "carols". This is to avoid offence to those who are not of the Christian persuasion.

13. Careful consideration should be given to each individual carol. For instance, we have been asked if it is appropriate to sing "Good Christian men, rejoice".

14. No. This discriminates against women.

15. We have been asked if it is all right to change it to "Good Christian folk, rejoice".

16. No. This discriminates against non-Christian folk.

17. We have been asked if it would be appropriate to sing "Come, one and all, rejoice".

18. No. Those who have no commitment to rejoicing, or are suffering from clinical depression or in a state of bereavement, may feel strongly that their privacy is invaded by the injunction to rejoice.

19. We have been asked what form of words would be appropriate, for heaven's sake!

20. We think there is no need to adopt that tone of voice. These guidelines are for the good of everyone.

21. We think that to sing "O come, let's choose our mood!" might be appropriate. But we have not thought this one through, yet.

22. Further detailed guidelines may be obtained on request. The main thing, though, is to enjoy yourselves. So, have fun! And try to sing quietly ...