Festivities, flags and silly hats: How Belgium celebrates its regional holidays
Brussels kicks off Belgium's annual regional festivities with the Iris Festival. Flanders and Wallonia also have their official holidays, making Belgium a country with a remarkable number of public holidays, the Brussels Times writes.
The first regional holiday of the year is the Iris Festival, on 8 May. The festivities celebrate the iris, the Brussels symbol. It's also the day of Brussels' patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel, and VE Day, which commemorates the victory of democracy over fascism and the anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazi regime in 1945.
There have long been calls in the capital region for the day to be made an official paid public holiday, as it is in Flanders and Wallonia. This may become reality, as the federal government's coalition agreement states that the regions can make their public holiday a paid one without any additional budgetary costs.
Activities such as street parties, free concerts and a food truck festival will take place over the coming days to celebrate the holiday, which this year falls on Monday.
Day of the Flemish Community
Next on the calendar is the Day of the Flemish Community, which takes place on 11 July. The celebration commemorates the victory of the Count of Flanders over the King of France outside Kortrijk in 1302, known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
On the Flemish holiday and in the days leading up to it, cities and municipalities raise their Flemish flags and organise a series of celebrations, folk festivals and performances. On the day itself, the Flemish government awards prizes to worthy Flemish people.
Symbolism is at the heart of the celebrations, with the Flemish lion and coat of arms on display and the national anthem resounding throughout the region. Flemish public broadcaster VRT co-organises a party on the Grote Markt in Antwerp and traditional celebrations are often held at Brussels City Hall.
Day of the Walloon Region
Wallonia celebrates the Day of the Walloon Region on the third Sunday of September, when the region commemorates Wallonia's participation in the Belgian Revolution of 1830.
In Namur, the Walloon capital, the Fêtes de Wallonie take place over an extended third weekend in September, starting on Thursday and ending on Monday evening. The festival usually attracts tens of thousands of people.
During these five days, various activities are organised, such as traditional stilt-walking, a fair and an open-air mass in the city centre, to name but a few. There are also gastronomic events and markets, selling traditional Walloon delicacies such as the avisance - a sausage roll - and local spirit peket.
Belgium's National Day
National Day is a day on which all the regions of Belgium unite and takes place every year on 21 July. While Belgians have existed since the days of Julius Caesar some 2,000 years ago, the independent state of Belgium was founded on 4 October, 1830.
However, National Day does not celebrate this date, but rather the day Leopold I swore allegiance to the new Belgian Constitution and became the first King of Belgium on 21 July 1831.
Every year, the streets of Brussels are filled with citizens who watch the military and civilian parade. Concerts, activities and fireworks are annual crowd-pleasers, accompanied by food trucks and bars set up for the festivities.
© BELGA ATTILA SEREN