The delegations go to a lot of trouble to make their stands as attractive as possible, and spare no effort as they load their suitcases with everything they might need. Sometimes this requires a special effort when they are travelling by air or by train, while delegations travelling by car or bus do not have this problem with weight. In Château-Chinon several delegations which had travelled by road managed to bring along a considerable quantity of decorations, but the prize goes to Bonneville whose display consisted of a Savoy chalet, almost complete and including the ham!
A loyal supporter
Gilles Honegger, a former ACCOR director who in particular looked after the teacher training placements, is a real fan of Christmas in Europe and never misses the event even though he has retired. He made the trip from Paris ‘just for the fun of it’ and stood in awe in front of the exhibition stands; and though he thought the quality was very high, he also opined that ‘getting to Château-Chinon is no easy matter’, and spoke of the snowy side roads you had to take to get there…
Farandoles and other dances
Throughout the exhibition and the inaugural parade, the students’ ‘applied pedagogical programme’ is ‘to participate in the event and to promote it’. A student from Bled made a considerable contribution to this pedagogical objective with his violin, persuading visitors large and small to perform farandoles and other dances which were all the more fun because they were unscheduled. And of course everyone enjoyed them.
The European Stand
The European stand, set up among all the others, certainly attracted a large number of visitors. The stand displayed only the documentation which the delegations had brought with them, allowing the visitors to find information without feeling pressure. This was an idea of Jean Michel Wautelet.
AEHT scarves and ties
It was also an excellent idea to ask the BTS (HND) students in charge of the delegations to wear the very elegant scarves and ties bearing the AEHT logo. This allowed them to be instantly identified, so was not only a great hit but also had an undeniable practical function.
The two keys to success are knowing how to do things and letting people know things. This message was not lost on Château-Chinon. The local press and the local radio - Le Journal du Centre, la Gazette du Morvan, Radio Morvan – gave detailed reports on the event, and the obvious result was the large number of people who had made the journey to see the exhibition for themselves. It was a shame that the regional TV station FR3 Bourgogne had not troubled to report on this European event.
Greedy little dog
One of the musicians of the ‘L and Cuivres’ brass band had brought along his little (female) dog who was spotted coming and going among the exhibition stands, snapping up as she went anything that fell on the ground.
On Monday local schools were programmed to visit the exhibition, and around 500 pupils of all ages showed up – though it was obvious that the timing of the visits of the various classes had been well worked out. There was no pushing and shoving in front of the stands, thus allowing everyone to enjoy the outing and the titbits which were handed out! Some students were missing, however, and there was a good reason for this: it was the feast of Aïd being celebrated by the Muslim community.
Past and present
The beautiful traditional costume worn by young Anna Galecka didn’t stop her working on her computer at the Polish stand during a break – showing that the past and the present are not incompatible.
CleverDuring the excursion to Beaune, one of the Bonneville delegates, a chef, kept on collecting freshly cut vine stalks. It’s not that he wanted to keep them as a souvenir, but rather as preparation for a banquet he was to organise later on, at which the meat would be specially roasted on a fire made of vines. It was a good harvest: first Clos Vougeot vines, then vines from the Hautes Côtes de Beaune.
No inscription on the pediment
The Château-Chinon vocational school is named after François Mitterrand – and rightly so since the former President of the Republic was the town’s mayor for twenty years. But oddly enough this is not recorded in an inscription – not even on pediment above the school’s entrance. Here’s the photo to prove it.
Sweets and delicacies
During the parade, and despite the bad weather, there were a lot of onlookers along the route – especially as the parade passed the Christmas market in the town centre. Thus as they marched along, various members of the parade could hand out sweets and delicacies to the children, who couldn’t believe their luck.
Discrete but omnipresent
Another person who contributed to the success of Christmas in Europe in Château-Chinon was Alain Gérard, a teacher who videoed the entire event, so that each delegation could take away with them a CD as a fine souvenir.
At the ‘pork meat’ evening the plates were made of … wood! They had been made on a wood-turning lathe by students on the school’s woodwork course. And they were dishwasher proof too! Apparently some of the plates are now missing – but that’s no surprise as they were so beautiful…
The regulars can’t help noticing that some schools feel duty bound to take part in Christmas in Europe, and apply to join in year after year. This is of course an excellent thing, although the concept of the event is to encourage other schools to take part with a different set of students, so that this extraordinary feast is opened up to as large a number of people as possible. But then is this possible?
Snow paid us a visit during the last evening, on December 9th. It was raining slightly when we returned from the excursion to Beaune, and by the time the participants had returned to their rooms to change for the evening, snow had fallen in Château-Chinon, as you can see from this picture taken from the window of the ‘Au Vieux Morvan’ hotel, which is famous because during his periods of office as mayor of Château-Chinon, François Mitterrand had used it as his base.