All good things must come to an end, and the final phase of Christmas in Europe 2018 was the gala dinner on Friday December 7th. This is a most traditional and essential part of the proceedings, and the organisers wanted it to be very special. And so it was.
The welcome drink served just outside the banqueting hall, the guests in full evening dress as per instructions, the special atmosphere of this highly festive occasion – all of this was a harbinger of a memorable evening. Dinner was served by a whole battalion of school students, attentive to our every need. And the menu befitted such a banquet, served with grace and efficiency.
After their performance, the presenter Kristaps Tälbergs and the singer Diana Pirägs handed the microphone to Silva Ozolina who took great pleasure in welcoming the entire gathering which included AEHT Vice-Presidents Neeme Rand and Nuria Montmany, Christmas in Europe founder Christiane Keller, AEHT General Secretary Nadine Schintgen, Bart Claes from the Erasmus programme, and Agra Berzina and Elita Zondaka; Silva wished everyone a pleasant evening and invited the last-named lady to propose a toast to Christmas in Europe and to the coming new year.
In the course of the evening AEHT General Secretary Nadine Schintgen took pleasure in thanking Silva Ozolina and Ilse Locmane, as well as all their teams, for all their hard work by presenting them with Cognac Academy book which also marks the AEHT’s 30th anniversary.
Agra Berzina from the National Centre for Education was obviously very pleased to be taking part in this gala evening marking the end of such a successful event; she was presented with a beautiful pot plant by Silva Ozolina.
Next came the presentation of the individual and group gifts for each delegation, duly applauded; there were gifts as well for the members of the Head Office who were present, namely Nadine Schintgen, Neeme Rand, Nuria Montmany, and … your devoted journalist!
When dessert was served, even more gifts were presented to those who had contributed to Christmas in Europe in Riga. Then Christiane Keller – aka Christmas Chris – was invited to speak: her simple but moving words translated the feelings of the whole gathering when she spoke of the multitude of discoveries, meetings and exchanges that had taken place at Christmas in Europe in Riga; she wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – and a spontaneous standing ovation emphasised her message.
And then came the handing over of the AEHT flag from Riga to Barcelona, to the strains of the European anthem, while loud applause greeted this handover. Roll on Barcelona 2019!
But before the individual farewells, the kitchen and service brigades were very loudly applauded because, even if they were working hard, they had to be applauded hard!
(sorry, my camera’s lens wasn’t wide-angled enough to take in all those who contributed to the food preparation and service!)