Port Stanley’s Jane Walker is inviting everyone in Elgin County and beyond to join a growing international movement to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from overshadowing the spirit of Christmas and isolating loved ones during the holiday season.

The specific call to action asks citizens to step outside at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve to ring a bell for two minutes, a U.K. concept aimed at diminishing loneliness and frustration during a national COVID-19 lockdown.

Brit Lauren Sinclair first promoted the bell ringing in a Facebook group – Worldwide Santa’s Christmas Eve Jingle at https://www.facebook.com/events/3448743951831359/ . Originally, she targeted only Falkirk, in England. The popularity of the initiative, however, quickly expanded into Canada, the U.S., Kuala Lumper, Australia, Cuba and the Philippines, with over 130,000 members.

“The goal was simple,” Lauren told news agency Metro.co.uk. “Covid may have taken our 2020, but it can’t take Christmas … and the thought of hearing masses of bells ringing at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve is giving us all goosebumps.”

The community-building strategy is reminiscent of another emotional response to the impact of COVID-19 where people across England step outside every Thursday at 8 p.m. to clap for National Health Service (NHS) workers battling the pandemic.

“A lot of people are going to be home with no one else around because of COVID-19,” Walker said in an interview yesterday. “Any way that is a way for people to connect is good … and of course, the bells will help Santa.

“I love Christmas,” added Walker, who manages the Magical Port Stanley Facebook page. Her other interests include crafting and photography: she sells images, Port Inspired jewelry and miniature decorated Christmas trees and other holiday crafts at various locations in Port. “I think it will be a lovely thing for the village given this unusual year. I’m a believer-in-the-magic kind of person.”

Walker, who moved here from Mississauga with her husband Rob four and a half years ago, has got a warm reception to her Facebook post about the event (https://www.facebook.com/events/979376132583266). She said Christ Anglican Church has already offered to ring its historic bell.