« The Richness of the whole event lies in the difference between each participant … »
Christiane Keller, founder of ‘Christmas in Europe’ the event which she created in Keysersberg in 1992, watches the development of the event with constant interest. Since it started, Christmas in Europe has become a major event among AEHT schools and proff of this is the list of schools offering to host the event in future years.
Before the close of the ninth Christmas in Europe, we asked her for her impressions :
You know, each country has its own particular traditions, and every time I am surprised by everything that takes place during Christmas in Europe. It is quite extraordinary, and every year I am thrilled by this diversity in all aspects of Christmas traditions.
However, I should like to remind you of some basic principles governing the AEHT’s Christmas in Europe. The prime objective is to encourage meetings between students of different countries and different cultures. This helps them to realise the value of the languages they have learned at school. You can easily see how hard it is for them at first, but once they get going they discover new avenues. They ‘chill out’ as it were. This is why the decision-makers in the schools wishing to take part in a Christmas in Europe need to select their student participants on the basis of their motivation and ability in languages.
Then, the theme of the meeting is a precise one : Christmas in Europe. It is therefore vital that everyone sticks to a common theme dealing with Christmas traditions. So this subject should be thoroughly researched, and the results of the research should highlight what is original and if possible unique – in the way one decorates a Christmas tree for example, or in the typical dish which one brings to the European buffet. It is not a matter of placing piles of tourist literature on a display stand, nor of holding a cookery competition. Visitors to the exhibition as well as guests partaking of the buffet must be able to discover the Christmas tradition of each country represented.
And then I should like schools offering to host Christmas in Europe to take part in at least two such events preceding their own, so that they can have direct experience of them. Nothing is as good as direct experience because it is not the same as on paper, and no number of precise specifications will have any effect. And I repeat, "The Richness of the whole event lies in the difference between each participant …
Let us not forget that one of the lasting effects of Christmas in Europe is the considerable prestige gained by the organising school. It is an opportunity to play on the European stage, and at present that is a precious thing. Once it has organised such an event, no school is ever the same again …