The French Musée de la Poste attributes the tradition to a very enterprising gentleman, Monsieur François-Charles Oberthur, a printer in Rennes who in 1854 conceived the postman’s calendar in its current form. Since then the almanach or carton is distributed by the facteur at the end of the year, and they are offered a gift in return, usually in cash. M Oberthur’s idea was contagious.
These days you’ll receive a visit from your bin collector, different charities, war veteran associations, and the pompiers. The tradition of yearly monetary gifts or étrennes extend much further back in time and applies to any person who may provide a service to the household, a cleaning lady, a nurse, a gardener. The amount is completely up to each resident. Based on comments on our forum regarding the pompier or facteur calendars, anything from 5 to 20 euros appears to be the norm.
If you wish to predict when the calendar will be delivered there is a golden rule. The exact time when you splattered soup down your ratty sweater, your hair looks like Medusa and the only cash in the house is a 10 centimes coin = doorbell.
One way to make your life easier is to set aside a few envelopes with the assigned cash amount near the front door. When the calendar bearer comes calling say thank you, hand over the cash with a smile, a handshake and a “bonne année.” More often than not these are amiable people who provide a vital service. Even if you disagree with the practice, would you want to irk the guy who might have to pull you out of a fire?