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Carolers bring Christmas cheer to Canton

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CANTON — Growing up in Albania, Eda Mazzotta would see movies showing groups of happy Americans singing carols at Christmas time. She always wanted to join in.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

Ms. Mazzotta moved to Canton last year, and had her first caroling experience on Saturday.

“I wanted to try, so I’m going to now,” she said.

She joined 11 others at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York’s third annual “Caroling with TAUNY.”

TAUNY Program Director and folklorist Hannah S. Harvester organizes the caroling events. She has studied the history and social significance of caroling, a tradition that, in one form or another, stretches back centuries.

The poor used to sing songs outside the homes of the wealthy during winter, and demand food or alcohol in return.

Modern carolers are much different, aiming only to spread goodwill and holiday cheer.

Caroling is a Christmas tradition that gives those who don’t normally sing formally a chance to have fun and participate in an informal choir while celebrating the season, Ms. Harvester said.

The carolers spent two hours visiting homes and businesses in downtown Canton, ending up at the Partridge Knoll retirement community.

“I did this last year, and I found it really meaningful,” said Natalie M. Panshin, Canton.

The songs were all traditional Christmas carols that would not have seemed out of place in centuries past.

“People 100 years ago would immediately recognize everything we’re doing out there,” said Edward W. Hildebrand, a Colton resident who helped lead the group. Carols, he said, provide a link to history.

Mr. Hildebrand has been a choir director for much of his life, and has studied music ever since he was a boy.

“Doing music in the holidays has always been a part of my life,” he said.

Cold weather and icy roads deterred some, but the group carried on.

“We’ll be carefully picking our way down the sidewalks,” Ms. Harvester said.

Despite the weather, the carolers remained excited to bring their songs to Canton.

“It’s just the idea to sing with each other and sing with the people in the community and have fun,” Ms. Harvester said.

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