View Full Version : Belgian Folklore Festivals

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004, 07:54 PM
Brussels Folklore

The Meyboom, the Ommegang, the Zinneke Parade, Toone … at the heart of influences from north and south, Brussels has created its very own culture, dialect and folklore. This folklore is that of the ‘brusseleir’ accent (the one our French neighbours identify as the ‘Belgian’ accent), of course, but it is also that of a city which has succeeded in gradually integrating the new cultures that have settled here, bringing elements from north and south and from far beyond.

The Ilôt Sacré, that is the historic heart of Brussels, has a very pleasant Internet site containing not only the history of the foundation of the ‘free commune' of the Ilôt Sacré in 1960 to save it from being massacred by the town planners, but also tourist information and a series of virtual tours.

A few essential elements in Brussels folklore:
- Manneken-Pis, the statuette that is the symbol of Brussels: http://www.manneken-pis.com
- The Meyboom, the city’s oldest folklore tradition: http://users.skynet.be/calomme/meyboom
- the Ommegang, a folklore procession: http://home.tiscali.be/ommegang
- the Royal Toone Theatre and its world famous puppets: http://www.toone.be
- the Flea Market in Place du Jeu de Balle: http://www.marcheauxpuces.org
- the Bird Market in the Grand-Place in Brussels: http://users.skynet.be/bk330735/marcheoiseauxfr2.htm

Folklore, of course, is the past and tradition, but it can also be the present, and a new tradition being established.
As part of the 'Brussels 2000' festivities, a parade was created: the Zinneke Parade. A zinneke is a true citizen of Brussels, a blend of something from every influence … so the parade initiated in the year 2000 (and then repeated in 2002 and 2004) covers all the cultures which together form the culture of Brussels.
The site of the Zinneke Parade therefore provides an idea of this multi-coloured city, and traditions in the process of creation: http://www.zinneke.org

When it comes to food and drink, Brussels has a number of flagships that delight tourists:
- Keskonmange (recipes for Belgian cuisine and beer): http://www.keskonmange.be
- Cuisine de Belgique: http://www.labonnecuisine.be
- Belgian chocolate:
- http://users.skynet.be/chocolat
- Brussels waffles: http://membres.lycos.fr/mouleagaufre
- Belgian beers: http://www.bierebel.com

And then, of course, there is the most highly prized of tourist souvenirs: Brussels lace! The Trabel site devotes a few pages to this (in English) at the following address: http://www.trabel.com/belgium-lace-history.htm

We also provide information about a personal Internet site, based on editorial pieces from various Internet users who have contributed to its content. So not everything on the site has been checked for accuracy, but it is well worth visiting.


Sunday, October 3rd, 2004, 08:16 AM
The Meyboom, the Ommegang, the Zinneke Parade, Toone … at the heart of influences from north and south, Brussels has created its very own culture, dialect and folklore. This folklore is that of the ‘brusseleir’ accent (the one our French neighbours identify as the ‘Belgian’ accent), of course, but it is also that of a city which has succeeded in gradually integrating the new cultures that have settled here, bringing elements from north and south and from far beyond.
I lived in a small Flemish town called Lovenjoel, near Leuven, for a year while studying at l'UCL in Louvain-la-Neuve. What I miss most is the simple things: the way the air felt, the pretty sky on those (relatively rare) days when it didn't rain, the Wesendonk and Chimay, school friends, hearty stews in winter. I don't miss the horrible oral exams!

To your point about la culture bruxelloise, you are certainly right, though my observation was that it comes at the unavoidable cost of a great deal of tension between the subraces.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005, 11:12 PM
Belgian folklore festivals

From the silly to the sublime, Renée Cordes presents a guide to the best of Belgian folklore festivals.

Everyone in Belgium may celebrate Independence Day on 21 July, but throughout the year localities around the country have their own folklore traditions. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of festivals - secular and religious - that are worth seeing. Here are some not to be missed.

Andenne Bear Carnival

If you like stuffed bears, head to this Wallonian town on 26 March 2006 for the 52nd annual Bear Carnival. Always held three weeks before Easter, this event celebrates young Charles Martel's victory against a bear who was terrorising the area. A young boy at the time, Martel was the grandson of Sainte-Begge, credited with founding Andenne in 684. Some 2,000 people - including many in bear costumes, of course - participate in a parade. The highlight is the throwing of 250 cuddly toy bears from the town hall balcony.
www.andenne.be (http://www.andenne.be/).

Ath Parade of the Giants

Walking tall in Ath
Also known as the Ducasse, the annual Parade of the Giants in this otherwise sleepy town is good old-fashioned fun for young and old. Always held the fourth weekend of August, this medieval pagenat celebrates the wedding of Monsier and Madame Gouyasse (Goliath), including a ceremony at Saint Julian's church, after which Goliath fights the shepherd David in front of the town hall. During the Sunday parade, onlookers throw coins at the dancing giants for good luck. Don't leave without buying a traditional "Masteilles" tart.
www.ath.be (http://www.ath.be/).

Beselare Witch Parade

This festival dates back to 1959, when a few local enthusiasts decided it would be fun to brew up an annual witches' party. With some evidence of a witch trial that once took place in this Flemish town, there's some rationale for the festival. The parade, featuring more than 1,000 costumed participants, showcases witches from well-known fairy tales as well as local legendary characters like Sefa Bubbels, Meele Crotte and Leeme Caduul. Music and dancing goes on all night, culminating with the nail-biting recreation of a witch trial. Held every two years, the next one happens 31 July 2005.
www.heksenstoet.be (http://www.heksenstoet.be/)

Binche Carnival

Once a year, this town in Hainaut province lets its hair down to party hardy before the 40-day Lenten period. The highlight is Mardi-Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, when the gilles come out decked in elaborate costumes (made new every year) featuring the Belgian national colours of black, red and yellow. During the main parades, they throw oranges to the cheering crowd. Recognised in 2003 by UNESCO as a 'masterpiece of oral and intangible patrimony of humanity," the Binche carnival is serious merrymaking and pageantry at its finest.
www.binche.be (http://www.binche.be/).

Bruges Procession of the Holy Blood

The Procession of the Holy Blood celebrates a relic believed to contain blood washed from the body of Christ. Legend has it that Derick of Alsace, Count of Flanders, was given the rock-crystal vial in 1148, during the Second Crusade, who brought it back to Bruges. Every year on Ascension Day, some 50,000 pilgrims come to see the vial paraded around the city in a moving procession that dates back to the 13th cetury. If you don't make it to the next procession on 25 May 2006, the relic can be viewed in the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
www.holyblood.org (http://www.holyblood.org/).

Brussels Ommegang

If it's pagentry you're after check out Ommegang
The mother of all folklore traditions, the Ommegang (whose name comes from Flemish words 'omme,' or around, and 'gang,' or walk) is Belgium's grandest pageant. It happens every year in late June/early July in central Brussels, recreating a an event held on 2 June 1549 in honour of Emperor Charles V and his infant son Philip, Crown Prince of Spain and Duke of Brabant. Every year some 2,000 persons -- many of them descendants of the original participants -- decked in magnificent costumes take part in the procession from the Place du Grand'Sablon to the Grand'Place. Knights on horseback, historic baners and a lively stilt-fight make for a good show. Tickets for a coveted spot on the Grand'Place are snapped up quickly, so purchase well in advance from the central tourist office. 30 June 2005 and 2 July 2005.
www.ommegang.be (http://www.ommegang.be/).

Dinant International Bathtub Regatta

15 August 2006 marks the 23rd annual International Bathtub Regatta, a wacky event
The bathtub regatta – good clean fun
that's worth seeing once. It involves bathtubs decorated in outlandish ways racing down the Meuse, though sometimes with all the add-ons it's sometimes hard to spot the actual tubs. The rules are that each 'vehicle' must have one bathtub at its core; motors are prohibited. Prizes are given for categories such as speed, originality and best representation of the town, though the main point is fun.
www.dinant.be (http://www.dinant.be/).

Ieper Kattefeest

Everyone has heard of bats in the belfry, but this Flemish town disposes of cats in the belfry. For some 900 years, cats were believed to embody the Devil, so every year local residents threw felines to their certain death from the town hall tower. This cruel practice went on pretty much until 1817, but it's still commemorated every second Sunday of May with the throwing of stuffed cats from the belfry tower. Every three years, there's also a giant Cat Parade fraturing floats, horses and thousands of costumed actors celebrating the cat in history, literature and folklore. The master of ceremonies is giant feline Cieper, accompanied by his wife, Minneke Poes, and their little one, Pipertje. The next parade takes place in 2006, so save the date for a purr-fect time.
www.ieper.be (http://www.ieper.be/)

St. Hubert Festivals of Butchers and Hunters

There's no shortage of folklore activities in this Ardenne town, which boasts of being the European capital of hunting and nature. On the last Sunday in September, butchers from throughout Belgium and neighbouring countries walk the streets in their work clothes, carrying their patron on their shoulders. The festival honours Hubert, who forgave the butchers many years ago for killing Saint Lambert, Bishop of Liège. The first weekend of September celebrates hunting and nature featuring lots of horn blowing, a falconry demonstration, a parade depicting 13 centuries of the town's history and a blessing of the animals.
www.saint-hubert-toerisme.be (http://www.saint-hubert-toerisme.be/).