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How to join in the festive spirit without embarrassing the kids

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Columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Danny Katz

A GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR THE NON-CHRISTMAS CAROLER

 

JINGLE BELL ROCK

You may find yourself squished into an over-packed, under-ventilated school hall, and this will be sung by 80 preppies wearing home-made paper-plate Santa masks tied to the faces with underwear elastic. All the parents will start joining in and you won't know the words: your kid will be staring at you from the stage, their sad little eyes peeking through their paper-plate eye-holes, as if to say, ''Why aren't you singing along with the other parents? Why aren't you snowing and blowing up bushels of fun?'' Don't disappoint your kid: just sing the word ''jingle'' over and over again, that's pretty much 87 per cent of the song, stay silent on the bridge, then get back to ''jingling'' for the big ending. That's the way to jingle-bell-rock til you jingle-bell-drop.

 

DECK THE HALLS

A favourite of the piped supermarket sound system. This plays on loop for the whole day and shoppers will start singing along and you will have to run and hide in the kosher section where they pipe only Barbra Streisand's Evergreen. All you need to learn are two words: ''holly'' and ''jolly''. Remember them, get them into your head, and when you hear them, belt out a big, brash ''FALALALA LAAAAA LALALA LAAAAA!'' like you're a brainwashed member of a sleeper cell and you just got your trigger code. (Important: do not snicker at the bit that goes ''don we now our gay apparel'' - it is how people wrote lyrics in olden days, it's got nothing to do with wearing silk-chiffon trackpants with penny loafers).

 

JINGLE BELLS

This sinister little chestnut usually strikes outdoors at public candlelit concerts. You'll be strolling through a park on a Sunday evening and next thing you know, you're waving around a candle in a cup and Jay La'gaia's voice is growling in your face. If you don't know the words, sing the more familiar indie version about Batman smelling and Robin laying an egg. Musicologists have long disputed whether the Joker runs away or the Joker does ballet: either way, a hearty ''Hey!'' is required at the end or the song remains unfinished.

 

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

You'll hear this one everywhere, but do not get bogged down in the tragic plot about a depressed reindeer getting bullied by his thuggish reindeer-peers. Just learn the chirpy, end-of-line call-outs: ''Reindeer!/Like a lightbulb!/ Saw it!/ Like a Lightbulb!/Reindeers!/ Like Pinocchio!/Rudolph!/ Like Monopoly!/ Ho! Ho! Ho!/ Reindeers!/ Hee! Hee! Hee!/ Reindeer!/ Like Napoleon!'' It's a much happier story.

 

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

You are at a Christmas lunch, you are wearing a crepe-paper hat, you have a snowman napkin tucked into your collar, you think nothing could get any worse … but then Uncle Doug starts singing this song and it goes around the table from his left, everyone adding a line. There are lords leaping, maids being milked, you don't know what's going on, it's a bloody nightmare. Solution: always sit beside Uncle Doug, on his left, and just remember ''two turtle doves''. It's always the second day, it never changes, and you will avoid embarrassment. Downside: all through lunch, Uncle Doug will speak-spit turkey gravy in your face.

 

DING DONG MERRILY ON HIGH

Don't worry about this carol, nobody knows it: it's got weird traditional words like ''r'ven'' and ''swungen'' and something about how ''Hosanna lives in Chelsea''. Same goes for all the sacred liturgical Latin-based carols like Ave Maria, Angels From the Realms of Glory, and Kevin Bloody Wilson's Ho Ho F-ing Ho.

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