...back in the day

Eerie Midnight Christmas Eve Tradition

We had a Christmas Eve tradition growing up in York City and later York County, Pennsylvania.  The New York Wire Company’s steam whistle would play Christmas carols sometime around midnight.  Although we could hear the New York Wire Company’s steam whistle from our house (when we lived on Hartman Street), we would drive to the building, park across the street from it, and wait in our car for the steam whistle to play the first Christmas carol.  All six of us.  It was a special night for us kids to be out and about so late.

If you are from York, you know what it sounds like.  If you’re not – well, I’ll describe the sound as eerie.  The man who played the whistles when I was a kid would play the carols very slow, taking us a few moments to recognize the song.  It became a game to us; be the first one to correctly guess the carol he was playing.

I think there’s been a “changing of the guard” since then.  And in this You-Tube video, it certainly sounds like there’s been a change.  This person plays much faster – and he’s included a few more songs to the list.  It’s not as freaky anymore, which is disappointing.  But it’s pretty cool none-the-less.  And when I was a kid, there wasn’t as many people milling about or traffic on the road.  The popularity of the steam carols must have grown.  The company has been sold recently, but I just read that as for this year, the tradition will continue.  There’s no guarantees for next year.

Have you heard these steam whistle carols?


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