ESTONIA – Estoni-shed Us!
"We are a small country but we have a big heart." The cab-driver in Tallinn had difficulty believing that the delegates who had come to Estonia for the AEHT’s 11th Christmas in Europe, from 3 – 8 December, 2002 were all in agreement that, Estonia and particularly the directors, teachers and students of the Kuressaare Ametikool had created an unforgettable experience.
This tiny country, which with its Baltic cousins will be integrated into the European Community in 2004, contains 1,500,00 inhabitants, most of whom live in the capital – Tallinn. Christmas in Europe was held on the most important of its many islands, Saaremaa, with about 40,000 inhabitants. The capital is Kuressaare with 16,000 residents. It should be obvious that the rhythm of life there is not that of a metropolis. Winter there, which is hard by definition, thanks to its geographic location offered Christmas in Europe an ideal setting – with the snow, the cold and that something special that is unique to the countries of the north.
Right from the reception of the participants, there could be no doubt of the level of the event, warm, attentive, friendly. This radiated from Neeme Rand, the Director of the Kuressaare Ametikool, from his staff and from all the students charged with the various tasks of hospitality The setting of the Ametikool, of the Kass Restaurant and of the Arabella Hotel all contributed. Uncomplicated and functional, this way of life was quickly adopted by all.
The program concocted by the organisers for them also kept its promises. All through the days were well – but not too – filled. Each and every one was able to find the time to clearly live this moment out of the Christmas ideal. From the setting up and filling of the stands for the exposition, the visits around the city, through the various meetings from the Opening Ceremony, the European Buffet, the reception in the Town Hall, Christmas Night in Estonia, the tourism excursion around the island of Saaremaa, the religious ceremony and finally the Closing Dinner, each participant was drawn into and able to appreciate the true value of the efforts put forth by the organisers in every area.
This 11th edition of Christmas in Europe completely followed the precedents set since its creation in Kaysersberg in 1992. The spirit always remains the same. But in each case each new school adapts the formula to its own unique environment. Yet there resides each year, within each Christmas in Europe that unique quality which testifies to an important unity.
In Kuressaare, for example, the number of visitors to the exhibition was commented on by all. It is true that, for the this small village, this Christmas in Europe represented a undeniable occasion, particularly in the political context of the approaching entry of Estonia into the European Union. The point was made that Europe is not a vague idea but that it could be expressed also in the form of this event.
And it is important to emphasis that this 11th edition has been also the occasion for Louis Robert, President of the AEHT and John Rees Smith, General Secretary to attend for the first time and recognise the importance of the Christmas in Europe event; the importance not only for the member-schools and participants within the AEHT but also for the image of the AEHT and important, finally for the town where this event is taking place.
And this 11th edition has also allowed the creation of basic organisational guidelines for following events in the years to come. This will make it possible to respond in the best possible way to the numerous questions which confront the organisers and participants each year and to guarantee the continued quality of the event.
Yes, the 11th edition was truly marked by the addition of a white stone to the bridge and as said and proposed with such good humour by Christine Keller founder and Godmother:
‘Estonia - ESTONI-shed Us!’