I think every country and religion must have its own (un)official start to the holiday season. Christians look to Advent. In the USA, Thanksgiving starts things off with a huge meal, family and friends and the arrival of Santa in New York City! In France, I would argue that the start of the holiday season rhymes with the Téléthon.
The Téléthon is a fundraiser for the Association Francaise Contre Les Myopathies (AFM, French Muscular Dystrophy Association) which supports research on neuromuscular diseases as well as genetic and rare diseases in general. The AFM was founded in 1958 but the Téléthon is only 25 years old. Every year, during the first weekend of December, the Téléthon is everywhere. While the Télethon includes two days worth of TV time asking for donations, I think it’s real heart lies in its ability to mobilise an entire country to raise money for research. Supermarkets, schools, the post office, every single village, business and organisation you can think of does something to raise money for the Téléthon.
To give you an idea of some of the things going on in our village, here’s a random list of things going on this weekend–the private school PTA is hosting a Bake Sale, the Motorcycle Club is offering rides, the village school cafeteria is selling soup and tea, there will be a Saurerkraut dinner, a Fest Noz (a night of traditional Breton dancing), at least two silent auctions and several raffles all to raise money. I could continue but I think you get the idea. I can’t think of any other cause that gets so many different people involved at one time and on an annual basis. (I could list any number of charities that have an important following in France but none rival the place of the Téléthon as an annual, all-encompassing event.)
While we won’t give directly to the Téléthon via its website or by calling, we’re supporting it like so many other people here by buying raffle tickets, cakes and tea! Christmas is a time for giving and even with times being tight, it’s always possible to find a little something to give–research, soup kitchens, toys for children, pick something that means something to you and be generous! One of my friends told me about a great idea–have your child choose one of their old (but in good condition) toys and give it to a children’s charity or have them help buy a new one for another child. My girls are still young but we’re going to let them choose a toy for another child this year. You’re never too young to start learning the beauty of generosity.