Let’s sing outdoors this Christmas - not online

Could carol services be held outside in the open air? Picture: André Langlois

Could carol services be held outside in the open air? Picture: André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

Whilst the fifth-century St Augustine proclaimed that “to sing is to pray twice”, sadly by his measure there is not much praying going on in churches today.

Sue Hessel is prepared to wrap up and attend a carol service in the garden.

Sue Hessel is prepared to wrap up and attend a carol service in the garden. - Credit: Archant

With congregational singing forbidden, and church choirs banned, some of the most joyous events of the year, and in our cultural heritage - the carol service and Midnight Mass - look like being deleted. Silent Night will take on new meaning.

There is no evidence that singing spreads coronavirus any more than talking excitedly. Bristol University’s latest study this summer concluded that shouting in a pub is more likely to spread it. The most crucial variables, whether measuring singing or speaking, were loudness and ventilation.

At our local Crouch End Catholic church, St Peter’s, we have four Christmas masses and each attracts several hundred people. How in heaven’s name will the parish priest decide which 30 or 60 people will be chosen to attend – will it be first past the post – or shall the last be first? Or will it just be on zoom.

Rather than moving online, let’s move outdoors. We could have carol singers and processions. Surely in the fresh air – even if not at double fortissimo - we can sing? In other words, we have got to start being brave. Fresh air is mother nature’s gift. Fill those lungs with crisp, cold oxygen, get the cardiovasculars going with brisk exercise, enjoy the warm company of friends, and you are far more likely to stay well.


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Children especially need to be outside. The current government decree prohibiting them from going to outdoor sports clubs after school and at weekends, or inviting a pal round to play football in the garden, is inhuman and unfair.

This lockdown is hard enough for zoom-fatigued working parents who live in cramped flats, without their children displaying uncontrollable anger and anxiety because they have had no exercise. The mental health effects for all age groups will be catastrophic.

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Let’s open up our gardens, or the streets, have festive drinks and hot mince pies in the fresh air. Wrap up, invite the neighbours, sing carols – and have a happy Christmas.

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