Celebrating Austrian traditions in OttawaPublished on January 11, 2014

  • Photo by Mark Holleron

Celebrating an Austrian Christmas and being the patron of the annual Viennese Opera Ball in Ottawa are two important traditions for His Excellency Arno Riedel, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria, his wife Loretta and their children Julian, 16, and Annachiara, 14. Over the holiday season, they will be hosting parties at their Rockcliffe Park residence. Later on Feb. 1, they will proudly participate in the elegant Viennese Opera Ball to showcase Austrian culture.

HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE THE CHRISTMAS SEASON IN OTTAWA? Christmas in Austria starts with the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and ends with the feast of St. Stephen on Dec. 26. We are looking forward to sharing our special family customs with our new Canadian friends and introducing them to Austrian food and wine specialties.

WHY DOES THE CHRISTMAS TREE HOLD SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE? In Austria, the tree is ceremoniously unveiled on Christmas Eve and is filled with candles, garlands, ornaments and candies. At our home here we will alter the schedule and start decorating a few days earlier. Our children are actively involved with the decorating and each of us has brought special ornaments from home that hold warm memories for us. The tree is a mixture of different styles, incorporating homemade and cherished ornaments as well as new ones.

HOW DID THE VIENNESE OPERA BALL TRADITION COME TO OTTAWA? The Ball's origin goes back to the 18th century when Empress Maria Theresa opened up her palaces for the public to have some entertainment. In 1996, the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian-Canadian Council organized the first Viennese Ball in Ottawa.

ANY EXCITING CHANGES FOR THE UPCOMING 18th VIENNESE OPERA BALL? The February event is being held in the Ballroom at the Ch‚teau Laurier. The title sponsor is RBC Royal Bank. There is also a new orchestra entertaining the guests this year that will play favourite Viennese waltzes - the Viennese Ball Orchestra. This is an important charity event that gives back significantly to the community and in the past 17 years over $700,000 has been raised. This year, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and Orkidstra are beneficiaries.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOuRITE PART OF THE EVENING? It is always the opening and then the dancing - I am not a good dancer but I love to dance. The evening begins with a cocktail reception and guests are announced to dinner with a fanfare of trumpets. The excitement builds with the opening Polonaise that features female student debutantes wearing flowing white gowns and their cavaliers dressed in tuxedos, showing off months of hard work in the dance studio.

For more info, ?vienneseoperaballottawa.com

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