Nowadays there are carol concerts in schools and churches in the run-up to Christmas, and groups of carol-singers can be found in shopping centres or visiting homes and pubs in the evenings to collect money for charity. Earlier, singers would have been earning money for themselves, but by the 20th century this was mainly limited to children, and has now apparently died out. There was a very strong and longstanding custom of serenading people in their homes early on Christmas Day; this could be done by informal groups (sometimes not very well), but in the 19th century was more usually an organized activity of the church choir or of the waits, where these existed. Some writers use that term for all perambulating singers and musicians. A few carols in the current repertoire are traditional folk-songs (‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, ‘As I Sat on a Sunny Bank’, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’), but most were composed by Victorian or later musicians.
See also WAITS.