It was a tradition with the Hardy family, late on Christmas Eve, for the local singers and musicians gather together at the family home at Higher Bockhampton for a glass of cider and a warming by the log fire. Meanwhile, they prepared their music scores and candles, prior to setting out on foot to entertain the locals by serenading them with Christmas carols at their front doors. The musicians included Hardy's father Thomas (violin), and his grandfather Thomas (cello).
Hardy recreated this scene in his novel Under the Greenwood Tree (published in 1872), where 'Hardy' became 'Dewy', the cottage 'Lewgate', and the choir, the 'Mellstock Quire'.
Although Hardy had difficulty in embracing the Christian faith, he adored it's joyous traditions, reliving them vicariously in Under the Greenwood Tree, and so may we!