Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Darvell marvel has brought joy to a Covid Christmas

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Many ingenious ways of evading Covid-19 have been devised to assist commerce, fewer to assist worship. In our next-door village, however, is Darvell, a large, longstanding Bruderhof community, part of a worldwide Anabaptist movement. Always welcoming to neighbours, they normally hold a carol concert in Advent. This year, such a thing is forbidden. Instead, the brotherhood devised a ‘Christmas Drive Through Darvell’. I slightly feared a gigantesque version of the dropsical Father Christmases and reindeer which people stick on their roofs, but I was wrong. At dusk on Saturday, we arrived with three generations of our family. The drive stretches well over a mile before exiting into another lane. It was lined by electric lights, storm-proofed candles, homemade wood sculptures of sheep and deer, and members of the community calling out ‘Merry Christmas’. Motorists were presented with a red box of homemade biscuits and then drove under an illuminated triumphal arch on which lights danced. A series of tableaux began with (yes) Father Christmas, his transport and his ‘workshop’, plus brass band. As we climbed the hill, the scene became more religious. A second illuminated arch was topped by people dressed as angels who sang carols high above us. Real shepherds abided in the fields, warmed by real braziers, tending real sheep and real goats. The actual nativity scene was in a real byre, in a real (pleasingly smelly) farmyard. An inn sign said ‘No rooms’. I could not discern whether a real baby was lying in the manger. Then we encountered the three wise men and a cardboard camel standing beside an enormous (unreal) telescope to search for the star. It was not hard to find, as it beamed bright from the highest treetop. It was such a rich story that the drive took 25 minutes. ‘Goodbye, lights,’ said our excited two-year-old granddaughter as we left, ‘See you soon!’ Two hours later, from the other side of the valley, I could see a long line of pilgrim brake-lights still queueing.

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