Under the watchful eye of Agnès Vaffier, Director of the Bonneveine Hotel School in Marseilles, aided by her team of teachers and students, the 22nd Christmas in Europe delighted the participants with a programme that was both eclectic and gastronomic. The 16 invited delegations from 13 countries made no secret of their pleasure, and, as is fitting at Christmas, generosity was widely shared.
The students, the crafts-men and women, the producers of local produce, the specialists in regional culinary excellence, all of them came together and were central to the organisation in the large entrance hall that had become a festive hive of activity. The choice of the large hall encouraged the best possible contact with the students of the school, one of France’s leading establishments which had elected to become, between December 8th and 14th 2013, a focus for an intergenerational pedagogical encounter.
Everything was done that could be done so that the Marseilles students could make ‘this’ Christmas into ‘their’ Christmas.
There were welcoming teams dedicated to each delegation, there was an exhibition right in the school entrance, through which all the students (all 1,400 of them) are obliged to walk, all meals were served at the school by several classes of students and their teachers (in the student training restaurant and in the student canteen), there were guided tours, recipe demonstrations were put on in rotation for the visitors in the agora, and local suppliers were invited to promote the products of Provence to visitors and to the School’s students.
Not forgetting an original contribution by the students of the host school to the European buffet and to the cultural programme. The osmosis effect was highly successful. The venture turned out very well for the 2013 European City of Culture.
Over a whole week the knowledge and the traditions of Christmas in Europe were widely shared; and Provence played a skilful role by exploiting knowledge of local produce.
It is deeply satisfying to meet others and to engage in these warm exchanges – there is no doubt that this Christmas in Europe event is a superb present for those who have the good fortune to take part in it each year.
In fact it is a good illustration of this now-famous saying much used at Christmas: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it PRESENT!’
I am sure that even now the team from Prešov, to whom we ceremonially handed the AEHT flag, is already hard at work preparing for the next Christmas in Europe in Slovakia.