Brian Mittge Commentary: Christmas Carolers Organize to Share Holiday Music


Well, we need a little Christmas

Right this very minute

Candles in the window

Carols at the spinet...

“Mame,” 1966


A new Lewis County group aims to be a cheer squad — but instead of pom-poms, it’s the Christmas spirit that these energetic Christmas carolers intend to spread this Yuletide season.

Starting during today’s downtown Centralia Christmas Market, this informal group will come together to sing classic carols such as “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Deck the Halls.” (They have many more in a songbook they created and will have available for people to join in and sing along.)

“I was just sitting there one day and thinking, ‘You know, we should bring some cheer,’” said Heidi Howland, founder of the new Lewis County Christmas Carollers Facebook group. (Yes, they spell carollers with two Ls, an olde-fashioned homage to the ancient caroling tradition.)

The idea came from a friend of hers who runs a nursing home and commented on how people need cheering up as the pandemic nears the two-year mark.

“We’ve got to focus on community and getting people in the holiday spirit,” said Howland, a mother of three who lives in Centralia and works in billing for Pacific Mobile Structures.

She’s received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Facebook group, including a suggestion to create a committee. Several people jumped up to help her lead the effort.

In just a few weeks the Facebook group already has 83 members.

One of them is Debbie Swenson, who moved from Lakewood to a small farm on Salzer Valley east of Centralia three years ago so she could raise her granddaughter in the slower pace of country life.

She is looking forward to the kind of Christmas caroling she remembers from her own youth. Swenson used to sing with her family as a young child. Then, as a teenager in rural Idaho, her mom would borrow a friend’s hay truck and trailer for caroling. They’d set up hay bales on the perimeter for the teens and adults, put young kids in the center, bring along cocoa and cookies, alert the town policeman what they were up to, then cruise around town singing.

Later, she took her own kids caroling around their neighborhood in Lakewood, but hasn’t caroled since her children grew up.

“I thought, I love that, I miss that,” Swenson said after seeing the new Facebook group. “I thought, what better way to get to know my community than to carol. We’re really looking forward to our first night of caroling.”

Howland said they’ll take COVID-19 precautions with social distancing. When they sing for nursing home residents on Dec. 20 (which is National Caroling Day) they’ll be outside so they don’t create the risk of bringing the virus into the building.

As they sing at public events and parades this year — and hopefully in years ahead — she has one overriding hope.

“I know this is probably a big dream, but I really want to get the crowds to sing with us,” she said. “The warm fuzzy feelings. I want to bring them back.”

Lewis County, it’s been a hard two years. Singing some Christmas carols together might be just be the perfect Christmas gift for all of us.


Brian Mittge has been known to sing a carol or two around his family’s spinet piano. Drop him a line with your favorite Christmas song at

Lift Your Voice in Song

The Lewis County Christmas Carollers have planned several events this month. All members of the public and children are warmly invited.

• Dec. 4: Noon-1:30 p.m. - Centralia Christmas Market on Magnolia St.

• Dec. 11: 5-6 p.m. - Centralia Washington Lighted Tractor Parade

• Dec. 18: 6-7:30 p.m. - Napavine neighborhoods

• Dec. 20: 6-7:30 p.m. - Nursing Homes

They are also looking for “ambassadors” who will lead carols in other communities in east and south Lewis County. More information is at the Lewis County Christmas Carollers Facebook page or by contacting Heidi Howland directly at 360-349-7130.