Gary and Kerri Hamer from Maroubra have hosted a neighbourhood Christmas gathering in their garage and back lane for 15 years.

Ms Hamer said the gathering of about 65 neighbours last Wednesday had a few newcomers, while a friend who went to a party elsewhere in the suburb also noticed better turnout than previous years.

“This year it’s even more important about getting together and connecting, because that’s been the thing about COVID,” Ms Hamer said. “It’s just reminded people, especially during lockdown, that sometimes the only people they saw were their neighbours. We’ve got quite a bit closer to some of our neighbours through it, just chatting and reaching out a little bit.”

The Hamers’ event is normally a potluck arrangement, though this year guests were given the option of bringing food just for themselves as a hygiene precaution. Like other years the couple supplied ice blocks for the children and Kerri’s famous zucchini slice – but they also provided sanitiser.

Matt Levinson in Rozelle had his street party last Sunday and said he knew of several friends having events this year, more than usual.

He often got together with his neighbours for a drink on the grassy verge out the front of his house on sunny afternoons and the street had hosted Christmas gatherings before, but this year felt special.

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“Even though we’ve done these Christmas parties on our street before, this year built on this real camaraderie of having gotten through what’s been a ridiculous year,” Mr Levinson said.

“If there’s anything that’s come out of this whole COVID experience, it’s that sense of really wanting to look out for your neighbours and wanting to feel connected to them.”

The event was a bit different from other years because people were keeping their physical distance and bringing their own food in a nod to COVID-19 safety.

Most councils across Sydney have not experienced an increase in applications for street closures but partygoers have told The Sun-Herald most events are informal affairs on footpaths, nature strips and back lanes.

Mr Levinson and his neighbours took advantage of the fact Westconnex had turned the street into a cul de sac – a silver lining to compensate for massive disruption from road construction.

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