For a third year, a village in France is turning itself into a real-life advent calendar, with 24 homes hosting open-door gatherings in the days running up to Christmas.
Volunteers offer drinks, snacks and sweets to neighbours and passers-by at different houses each evening.
Speaking after attending the third open-door in the village of Cruis, in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, one of the organisers, Michèle Bessac told Connexion: “Every one is really enjoying it. So far we have had between 50 and 60 people each evening. And we are finding new faces, people who are coming and being friendly who we would not otherwise have met.”
In Cruis, a group of friends thought up the idea of the 24 advent open-doors as a way of celebrating Christmas, and forging links in the village where many people work away and do not always know their neighbours.
Early attempts found it difficult to find 24 volunteer houses, but once they did the event has been a big success.
Gatherings outside the volunteer houses start at 17h00 as the sun sets.
This year the first few open doors have enjoyed good weather. In the past they have continued even in wind, snow or rain, with tarpaulins being put up so people can shelter together.
Hosts pay for the food and drink out of their own pockets.
“It is all about being generous and receiving generosity in a friendly spirit,” said Michèle Bessac.
“Things have gone so well that we hope that other villages in France will be able to copy us.”
Advent calendars were invented by German Lutherans in the 19th century, with the idea that covered doors of a calendar covering the period from advent to Christmas would be opened each day in the run-up to Christmas, revealing a theme about the meaning of Christmas to meditate on.
Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas in most Western Christian churches and traditionally marks the start of the church year.
As the date varies from year to year, the period December 1 to 24 is used for most advent calendars.
Recently advent calendars have been adapted for a variety of purposes from charity calendars, to full-scale commercial operations.
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