Lessons and Carols: A Time of Joy and Fellowship

Lessons and Carols is one of my favorite events in the lead-up toward Christmas. It signals that the semester is ending, and Christmas is right around the corner. It is at Lessons and Carols that the size of the community of the Honors College hits home; it is one of the few events where you see the majority of the students and professors at one place, not to mention family members that attend. 

I am currently a Junior, and with Covid dominating everything last year, my freshman year Lessons and Carols was the only service I attended at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. I have never been a person that enjoyed singing, but caroling as a freshman at Lessons and Carols was a great experience. It was a culmination of all the work done in Choral class up that point: singing with the rest of the Cohort in front of the College, knowing the cohorts before you and the ones coming after have and will do the same thing. It helps to reinforce the community with the rest of the college.

Last year, the Lessons and Carols service was different because of Covid precautions. Lessons and Carols was held on the hill between Sparrowk and Fowler instead of at St. Martin's Episcopal Church; we missed the feeling of gathering inside of a church, but it was still a great experience in its own right. Being on that hill together with the rest of the college listening to the readings and hymns was a memorable point, especially in a year that was defined by isolation and sickness. This year, we were thankfully able to resume the tradition of holding the service at St. Martin's.

After the Lessons and Carols every year, we move from a space of reverence to a space of laughter and joy with the Christmas party. The party is such a great time with the rest of the cohorts and the professors. It was such a memorable event, from chatting with each other and enjoying light snacks, having a white elephant gift exchange or a gingerbread house competition, to listening to Dr. Cary read the Grinch and singing more carols together. In 2019, the white elephant exchange was memorable; half of the gifts were just jokes of some sort. I remember one of the presents was just a framed photo of a Templeton senior at the time (Chiara Behm), but there were also more standard gifts such as mugs and other items. During finals week, the party was such a fun and lighthearted time that made finals that much better. 

But nothing else at the Christmas party can compare to Dr. Cary’s annual reading of “The Grinch.” It is a pleasure to listen to him with all the voices he uses as he reads “The Grinch,” and all of his commentary. The story ends with us singing together just like the Whos of Whoville. The best part of carol singing is that there are no papers with words of the carols or with a list of songs to sing. Instead, it is somewhat spontaneous: Dr. Cary asks if there are ideas of songs, someone says, “God rest ye Merry Gentlemen” or the like, and then we all begin singing it together.

Lessons and Carols followed by the Christmas party is one of the best points of the year, and I look forward to celebrating this year and for it to continue in the future.