It started as a favour for one friend and now it's reaching thousands of people every night, bringing joy to a difficult Christmas season.
"It started completely as a surprise," Joan van der Linde says. "It" was singing Christmas carols from the front deck of her home in Morris, Man. "I had this idea on December 1, it was supposed to be for my neighbours and people walking," van der Linde says.
"I had this idea because of the sadness people have and the abnormal in our lives right now. I had this idea to bring some joy to people's lives. It was supposed to be one night only, and it wasn't supposed to be a public thing at all." That is until a friend heard about her plans and asked her to put it on Facebook Live. Van der Linde says she balked at the idea originally because the thought of performing live on the internet intimidated her.
"My friend said well could I do it for her, she would be my one viewing that evening. So, she was my one viewer that night along with 4,000 others." The singing sessions were an immediate hit, with not only over 4,000 people watching, but over 300 reactions and 155 comments. That success made van der Linde realize that she had the opportunity to continue to do something special.
"I can't let people down," she says. "The comments that were coming from far and wide, and how in the abnormal this is something that is normal. That's why, I think, it's been such a hit. It's been touching a deep nostalgic place in people's hearts. The little bit of normal that it's bringing into our very abnormal Christmas season is just touching that place that people love."
In a typical year, she would be going door-to-door to sing carols in the community. A former worship pastor, van der Linde says it's a favourite past time. "Anyone who knows me knows how much I love carolling in person," she says. And she's grateful to have stumbled upon a way that is reaching even more people with hope, and she says others can look for ways to do the same.
"In this season of abnormal and sadness, there are things that we can do to help us make it through with joy. A lot of that has to do with gratitude because we do have so many blessings in our lives. It's the little things, like paying for someone's coffee at the drive-thru, or even dropping off some cash for someone you know is struggling, or dropping off a meal for a neighbour. I know that typically happens at Christmas but this year it's even more important. Reach out beyond your own sadness and as we do things for other people, it brightens it up for us, too."