Dottie Perham-Whittier, center, coordinator of community relation in Lewiston, and Lewiston City Council President Michel Lajoie deliver 24 Christmas cards and 24 bells to Cynthia Scott on Dec. 11 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The bells and cards will be given to children at the hospital this month. Mayor Mark Cayer is encouraging people to go outside at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and ring a bell during the worldwide “Christmas Eve Jingle.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The idea started in a British neighborhood and has slowly caught on. Now, officials in Lewiston are urging local residents to join in.

The “Christmas Eve Jingle,” sparked by Mary Beggs-Reid in North Yorkshire, England, has now reached a global audience. The event looks to bring people together in ringing bells for two minutes at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve in the hope of ending an especially lonely year with a statement of togetherness.

A Facebook group promoting the worldwide jingle now has more than 455,000 members. Its next goal is to reach 500,000.

In Lewiston, Dottie Perham-Whittier, the coordinator of community relations, has been rallying city residents and fellow employees to take part.

“We just thought it would be a nice way to bring people together when we’re apart,” she said Monday.

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer holds bells he plans to ring during the “Christmas Eve Jingle” at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Mayor Mark Cayer, who said he planned to take part, called the event “a wonderful way to do something together, while still following social-distancing guidelines.”

“The idea of people ringing bells at 6 p.m., within their respective time zones, will result in a ripple effect of unity across the world,” he said. “Certainly, in a very difficult year, participating in the Christmas Eve Jingle will be a feel-good moment, and something that folks of all ages can do.

“I’ve also been told by Santa Claus that the sound of the bells encourages he and his reindeer as they take flight on Christmas Eve.”

Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, municipalities have had to scrap or reimagine local holiday events. For Lewiston, that has resulted in a “Santa Live” virtual event, with the city broadcasting sing-alongs and other activities with Santa.

It was from Santa himself that Perham-Whittier heard about the Christmas Eve Jingle. Since then, she and other officials have been spreading the word, even giving away bells.

The organizers have encouraged those participating in the “Jingle” to give bells to people who will be alone on Christmas Eve, part of its goal to “combat loneliness” during the holiday season.

On Dec. 11, Perham-Whittier and council President Michel Lajoie delivered bells and Christmas cards to Central Maine Medical Center. They will be given to children at the hospital this month.

“Hopefully, Lewiston will do it,” Perham-Whittier said. “Hopefully, other people will join us. It’s just an uplifting thing to do in 2020.”

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