Reflection: Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Community Sing

The Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Sing went VIRTUAL for the first time in 97 years.

The Annual Christmas Eve Community Caroling on the Village Green in Basking Ridge was produced and broadcast to the world virtually on December 24, 2020 for the first time due to the Corona virus public gathering restrictions.

The History of the Christmas Eve Sing

Every year on December 24th for 97 years starting promptly at 7pm on what’s known as “The Green”, residents, families, friends, and guests in Basking Ridge, New Jersey gather for less than 20 minutes to sing Christmas carols, wish good tidings, then move on to their personal family traditions. Church bells begin ringing at about 6:45pm. 10 songs are sung and the carolling ends at approximately 7:25pm again with a round of ringing church bells. The “sing” is the oldest continuous Christmas Eve sing in New Jersey.

Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Song Sheets

For almost 100 years the town of Basking Ridge comes together to sing 10 songs on Christmas Eve. Here's the list. #realwhoville
For almost 100 years the town of Basking Ridge have been coming together to sing 10 songs on Christmas Eve. Here’s the list. #realwhoville – Here are two Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Carol Sheets from 2015 and 2014. Click image to enlarge. Click Here to download your own song sheet
Sing-A-Long Song Sheet
Click Here to download your own song list
  1. O Come All Ye Faithful
  2. Hark the Herald Angel Sing
  3. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  4. The First Noel
  5. Brass Quartet: Silent Night Holy Night
  6. Silent Night Holy Night
  7. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  8. Deck the Halls
  9. We Three Kings
  10. Joy to the World
Want to see the village in real time? Click Here
Did you miss the 2020 sing – Click Play.
A look back at a previous Christmas Eve caroling. See all our videos on our channel
The Christmas Eve community sing is often referred to “as close to Whoville as you can get.” If you attend, you’ll see what we mean. #realwhoville

The event for many is a ongoing family tradition that’s been run each year for 97 years (since 1924) and very little has changed. It is said to have started when a local businessman named Ray Moffet of Moffet Motors Chevrolet (formerly Moffet Garage) on Maple Avenue, drove a group of carolers around Basking Ridge. His phone number was Bernardsville 348.

Ray Moffet of Basking Ridge – the Father of the Christmas Sing. Sometimes spelled Moffett and Moffit, but we use Moffet!

In 1927, the event moved from a vehicle and  started on “the Green”, where the event is centered today. The “Green” is a small patch of grass that stands at the center of Finley Avenue across the street from 1 West Oak Street, also known as the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. Moffet solicited $5 contributions from local businessmen to pay the cost of decorating a tree and providing music for the occasion. The event typically took place at 8:00pm, moving then to 7:30pm and now kicks off every year at 7:00pm.

Local Artist Mark De Mos showcases a loca icon in the Somerset Hills - Mr. Local History Project
Local Artist Mark De Mos showcases the iconic Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Sing

In 1932, the brass ensemble that leads the carolers in song was added. The ensemble is all volunteer. A similar event was held at Olcott Square in Bernardsville led by William Van Houten and Charles Swain during the mid-1930s, but it did not last.

Back in Basking Ridge, John D. Carswell, who had led the singing and helped Ray for fifty years, died in May 1975. Richard Booth had been leading the ensemble. So in 1975 Bob Verburg stepped in and served as chairman of the event. The 1975 all volunteer committee included a standing committee of support for the Carol Sing included Harold M. Bieber, Morris Birnbaum, George L. Fricke, Dr. William J. Haines, Gregory Lane, Ernest R. Shears, Jean-Louis Terry, Robert M. Huggins, Burr Williamson and Robert M. Verburg. Serving on the general committee are Rev. Norman M. Post, Rev. Dale H. Crouthamel, Rev. Joseph A. B. Wade, Rev. Wilbur A. Thomas, Rev. Rudolf J. Keyle, Rev Dwight A. White, Dr. J. Calvin K. Jackson and Rev. Carl Abrahamsen Jr. In the 1980’s Gregory Lane led the singing.

Supporting organizations have included: Moffet Motors, Women’s Auxiliary of the Basking Ridge Fire Company, the Bernards Township PTA, The Ridge Home & School Association, Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, Bishop Janes United Methodist Church,

Today

Today, local resident Jim Felter has been the Christmas Eve Carol coordinator since 2006. Prior to 2006,  long time BRPC member George Fricke did it for 17 years. If you’re interested in participating, reach out to [email protected]

Anyone can join to play. You just show up at Westminster Hall (BRPC) at 6:00pm. The “Carol Sing on the Green” for those who wish to sing typically bring a flashlight or a cell phone with a flashlight app so to read the carol sheets that are offered to anyone starting at about 6:45pm. The attendees sing a total of 9 songs (same every year), and the singing comes to a close with a generous ringing of the church bells from the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.  Then the area’s church doors open for an early service, and neighbors or strangers wish each other a Merry Christmas and go on their way. By 7:25 the green is deserted.

Click here and order your limited edition Night before Christmas Cards. Available in our gift shop while supplies last.
Share the tradition- get your own “Night Before Christmas in Basking Ridge” pack of cards to personalize. Click here . 5 for $10 while supplies last. We now have a Bernardsville version as well.

They’re Here – They’re Gone!

One of the most amazing observations of the event. If you arrive at 6:30 you probably will be the only person there. At 6:45pm there’s probably about 500 people there. By 7pm there are literally thousands of people present. And as quickly as they came, by 7:30pm the town center is almost deserted.Many walk, some drive, and they park off the town green.

Basking Ridge Fire Company

“Carol Sing To Mark 95th Year The first Christmas Eve event began with a small group of people in 1924 under the auspices of the Basking Ridge Fire Company Women’s Auxiliary. The original holiday tree had only 75 lights!

From 1941-1945 there was a blackout due to World War II and a service honor roll replaced the traditional tree on the Village Green. In 1946 Santa Claus returned and gave boxes of animal crackers to the children. The Carol Sing has taken place each year in spite of the weather. Local citizens, former residents, and high school and college students compose a brass band. Some musicians have been playing for more than three decades. Song sheets are distributed at 6:45 PM and the Presbyterian and Methodist church bells precede the traditional event. Happy Holidays!”

Anyone interested in joining the brass ensemble may meet with Gregory Lane at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve in Westminster Hall at The Presbyterian Church, 1 East Oak St. A special thanks goes out to those who serve on the general committee: The Rev. Monsignor Sylvester J. Cronin, Pastor Bob Erbig, the Rev. John Greig, the Rev. Ted Harvey, the Rev. Paul Howden, the Rev. Dennis Jones, the Rev. Rick Morley, the Rev. Peter Pendell and the Rev. Eunice Vega-Perez, Bill Corson, Jennifer Curran, George Fricke, Sally and Ron Horan, Gregory Lane, Wyman Wong, Dan Zugale and Sing Coordinator Jim Felter.

Former Residents Spread the Cheer As They Move On

One of the great legacies of anything is when people take a great idea and try to replicate it somewhere else. Recently online, former residents have been posting that they are indeed creating this tradition in other towns. If you know of any, it’d be great to share with the readers. Feel free to post a comment if you’ve seen a similar event. We’ll think of you when we sing next time around!

Start Time: 7:00pm

For 2019, after a prelude by the brass ensemble under the direction of Greg Lane, the community will be encouraged to participate in the singing of traditional songs. Don Reckenbeil of the Hunterdon Harmonizers will lead the singing. Anyone interested in joining the brass ensemble may meet with Lane at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve in Westminster Hall at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, 1 East Oak St.

Hasn’t Changed Much Since 1938

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful
  2. Hark the Herald Angel Sing
  3. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  4. The First Noel
  5. Silent Night Holy Night
  6. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  7. Deck the Halls
  8. We Three Kings
  9. Joy to the World

End: Approximately 7:20 – 7:25pm

Church services usually begin at 7:30pm. The Basking Ridge Community Carol Service is a all volunteer group.

Put this one on your “Bucket List”

Learn how the Basking Ridge Fire Department has been delivering the town tree for almost 100 years.
Learn how the Basking Ridge Fire Department has been delivering the town tree every year for almost 100 years.

Learn more about the Basking Ridge Fire Company and how the tree gets there. Click Here

Project Honors Veterans at the Lyons VA With Christmas Eve Sing Cards

Originally posted: December 2015
Updated: December 6, 2020

One Thought to “Reflection: Basking Ridge Christmas Eve Community Sing”

  1. Betsy Richards

    My father was John Carswell who led the BR Carol Sing for many years. After a major heart attack, he led the event one last time in 1974 before his death in May 1975. My maiden name was Betsy Carswell, and I played trombone at the Carol Sing from 1947 until
    1993. What fun, despite the weather & occasional frozen trombone slide. I’m so glad this wonderful event continues. Thank you to all who make it happen.
    Betsy Carswell Richards, Eastham, MA [email protected]

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