Round Um. The village of Ottrott is full of flowers all year round and is beautifully decorated at Easter and Christmas. Behind these creations there is the dedication of a municipal agent and a group of volunteers who support her three days a week.
The Festival of Lights 2022 in Lyon
From a small house, opposite the town hall of Ottrott, often escapes laughter and the noise of electric tools. Unmistakable signs that Jacqueline Hoffbeck, municipal officer in charge of green spaces, is hard at work with her volunteer teammates.
She imagines, prepares and distributes the tasks. They draw, cut, file, paint, varnish… This time, for Christmas, the theme chosen by Jacqueline is that of elves. Their chunky silhouettes, drawn on wood, are sawn before receiving several coats of paint. Complete, they are screwed to a wooden frame, on a background of branches.
Created and assembled in the workshop, the sets often become too bulky to take the turn between the door and the small outside staircase. shut up The merry team takes them out of the window, then drags them around the street until they fall.
The painted wooden elves are intended for the town hall. Those of the tourist office, just next door, are represented by hats and hands in red material (“the old curtains of the town hall”and spartan bodies decorated with walnut shell buttons.
“Every year our patterns change” assured the instigator of the decoration. “Forest animals, squirrels, snowmen, penguins, we’ve had it before in Ottrott.”
In order not to repeat itself from one year to the next, you need a hell of a dose of imagination. Because Jacqueline Hoffbeck and her band have been creating Christmas decorations for the town for 26 years. Sometimes, it is true, they incorporate some element from a previous year in addition. “if it fits”. But in principle they do something new every time.
Since Jacqueline Hoffbeck was appointed by the municipality a quarter of a century ago, voluntary retirees have come to lend her a helping hand. Some are no longer there, others have taken over.
“At the beginning of 2014 I foolishly said that I would retire on the 1st.there July” remembers Mao Metz, faithful among the faithful. “And from the beginning of November she didn’t miss me: Are you coming? Since then I’ve been here. It’s my hobby (…) Jacqueline is our big boss, she always has something for us to do, we’re never idle not.”
He comes three mornings a week, just like his partner Jean Bertrand (Jeannot). “Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 08:00 to 12:00” specify the latter. “And in the afternoon it is the women who replace us.”
Because here it is the small particularity of the device, these gentlemen and these ladies do not mix. “Men with men, women with women, otherwise there would be too many of us” hammers Jeannot. Only Jacqueline provides the hyphen.
After lunch, from 1:30 p.m., Jacqueline Hoffbeck will pick up two ladies from the five that make up the group. There are also more than faithful who arrive full of energy and get to work quickly. Hélène Hoffbeck finalizes wreaths of green “for the doors, of the church and of the town hall.” She is there herself “For more than 20 years. I come because I like tinkering, it’s a great hobby.” she specifies.
At the next table, Christiane Dreyer, busy bleaching small pine cones, assures us to come “for at least fifteen years.” She laughs: “We are part of the furniture.”
“It’s just wonderful here” adds her colleague Nénette, passing the flames of wooden candles in yellow. “Our Jacquy is exceptional, exceptional, that’s why we all come back. Every day is different, depending on its inspiration.”
Yolande Hoffbeck, she cuts out white stars “in plastic lids from fresh cream buckets” what a restaurateur has in store for them. “We can fix everything, with us it’s fixed” assured the bubbly old lady, gifts “from the beginning.”
Because from year to year his pleasure in contributing to the decoration of his congregation remains unchanged: “We are happy when people say it is beautiful. The walkers who come down from Mont Ste-Odile and pass in front of the town hall wait for Jacqueline’s new decorations every year.”
The white stars made of recycled plastic make a sensation on the two large Christmas trees in front of the church. There the decor is all white. Painted wooden candles and immaculate doves decorate the ascent of the grand staircase. And below, the surrounding wall is decorated with paintings of golden cherubs, made from coffee capsules.
In January, everything will have to be dismantled. Then Jacqueline’s hands can rest. But…not for very long. Because from February-March the flower works are resumed. And here, too, the group of retirees is of course in the game.
“I receive the flowers in the greenhouse in the spring. We make the cuttings. In the meantime we prepare the Easter decorations. Then we plant out, we take out the plants. We weed.” summarizes Jacqueline Hoffbeck. “In the fall we clean, and soon it’s off again for a new cycle.”
“We only have holidays between Christmas and New Year” smiles Christiane Dreyer. “Finally no, a little more: we have the right to take leave in January and February. Jacqueline is well aware that she would do much less without her group of “gnomes” by her side. “Luckily they are here” she exclaimed. “And always for it. They do what I ask of them. Couldn’t get better.”
Moreover, the creativity and efficiency of the team has already been rewarded on several occasions. The year after Jacqueline’s arrival, Ottrott got her first flower from the flowered villages. “A second a few years later, and a third three years ago.”
And it’s a safe bet that if there was a prize to distinguish the most beautiful Christmas villages, the town would be awarded regularly. Thanks to who?