OUR LAST DAY IN KURESSAARE: Service of Faith and Closing Ceremony
Saturday, the 7th of December was already the last day in Kuressaare. All had been encompassed so quickly, without shocks or blows. It was hard to believe that the 11th edition of Christmas in Europe had been accomplished. But happily, there remained a few more meetings in our program.
Another tradition is to begin the day by consecrated it with a religious service. This took place in the church of St Laurence and was celebrated by the Reverend Veikko Vihuri, Pastor. This was done using the simple service of the Anglican tradition so that all the participants could feel a part of the experience. In his sermon, he reminded us that during the occupation, the simple act of celebrating Christmas was an act of courageous political protest. " Christmas is a celebration of family, a celebration of friendship, a celebration of love and advent is the period designated to prepare the heart for the arrival of God." This was achieved during the service by the songs in Estonian assisted not too badly by the congregation.
The Reverend Veikko Vihuri speaks to his muffled congregation.
The second task was the removal of the stands. If there had been a lot of work in the construction, the deconstruction and removal was accomplished with enormous speed in the middle of the afternoon. Because of the great numbers of visitors, the exhibition had been open until 14.oo leaving a very short time to accomplish this job.
And finally, the last act – the Closing Ceremony. This took place in the Ametikool’s beautiful Aula, which had been set up with pretty table for six, decorated for a party. In his welcoming address, Neeme Rand related the history of Christmas in Europe in Kuressaare. He was filled with joy at having been able to organise this event. " It took me only a minute to say ‘yes’ to Christiane Keller in Berlin, but it took two years to plan and realise this Christmas…" was the substance of his speech. "We are happy that all has gone well and we hope that all of the 70 guests who came for the first time to Estonia will come back with their families and friends. I wish all of you a wonderful holiday and New Year.", was his conclusion.
Then, once again, the high quality of the meal made one of the high points of the evening. This was served with several pauses during which each school presented its cultural program. It began with one of the Estonian schools followed by the others, one by one: songs, dances, evocations of Christmas, sketches, giving of gifts and the procession of Santa Lucia. It was a true condensation of Christmas in Europe, sometimes serious perhaps, but high in colour and music.
Christiane Keller also offered a few words. She wanted to say a few words of praise for the work accomplished by Neeme Rand’s team. "We are profoundly grateful. On the night of the 24th, we will be with you here. And it is clear to us now that you have carefully brought together all the little stones……. Thank you to the students, thank you to Jane and thank you to the sponsors…." She then proposed an ovation for all of those who have worked so hard and long to make Christmas in Europe in Kuressaare a total success.
The artisans receive their ovation.
Christiane Keller – Founder of Christmas in Europe.
The last act: The handing over of the AEHT flag to the Senigallia school represented by two teachers, Mrs Maria Caroli and Mrs Firminia Bacciocchi. The Director of the Senigallia School, Mr Alfonso Benvenuto, Vice-President of the AEHT was unable to attend because of an over-full schedule. This ‘passing on of possibilities’ is always accompanied by a touch of emotion as well as much good feeling. But nourishing applause of the participants clearly demonstrates the powerful symbolism of this act.
A solemn instant – The flag is placed in the hands of the