I remember, as a child, the sheer joy of having an advent calendar in the run up to Christmas. We weren’t rich, we didn’t have a fancy calendar with sweets or anything behind the windows. Just a simple, flat calendar where you hunted amongst the glittered picture for a small square with the right number on it, and then fought very gently with the calendar to pry open the little window without tearing it. As the window cracked, open the festive symbol of the day would be revealed. Maybe a robin, or a Wise Man, or a shepherd with his crook. The pleasure was simple, innocent, joyful.
Last year, a friend in a local village told me about their ‘living advent calendar’. She explained that the idea originated in Sweden. People in the village decorate a window – one for each of the 24 days of Advent. On their day, they ‘open’ their window by displaying their decoration and backlighting it.
I was immediately captivated by this idea but it was already 29th November! T-3 until the first window needed to be opened. I contacted the local WhatsApp group to see if anyone else in Bridgetown was interested in joining in. A few people volunteered, which was heartening, and the race was on.
I spent the next two weeks dropping leaflets into doors and posting requests for support on the local lamp posts – especially near the school where I thought the Mums might hang out. It was touch and go at times, but slowly and surely I gathered enough volunteers for the 24 windows.
It was a huge success. People had fun creating their windows while others pestered me for updates as new people volunteered. Families took to the streets to walk around and enjoy the cold December evenings. I am deeply grateful to all those who participated – either by making a window or by taking the effort to come out and enjoy the displays.
Thankfully, this year I remembered to start a bit earlier and I was able to assign the 24 windows within just 2 days! The ones revealed so far this year have been fantastic. While it’s definitely not a competition, people have stepped up their game and it’s even more of a delight to see the new windows opening night after night.
Some neighbours have also suggested that, next year, we gather for a big walk together, with mince pies and mulled wine at the end of it. Perhaps a new kind of community street party is being born.
Here’s a sample of some of our wonderful windows in 2021. I hope they inspire you to start your own local living advent calendar next year! ?