Belgian National Day

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Belgian National Day
(FĂȘte nationale de la Belgique)

***** Location: Belgium
***** Season: Mid-Summer
***** Category: Observance


21 July is the National Festival of Belgium, celebrating the historical achievement of independence in 1830. 21 July is always a public holiday, and everyone enjoys joining in for at least some of the varied activities.

The country has three languages -- Flemish, French and German -- and is never quite safe from a potential split. In addition, nowadays there are immigrants from all the EU Member States, as well as many other countries around the world -- and this day is a great unifying occasion for the country, as everyone enjoys the activities together.

The festival starts with a big outdoor dance party the night before, in one of the downtown city squares, free of charge for the population to enjoy.

Belgians are not a flag-waving people, but for the National Day, some of my neighbours hang out their black-gold-red flags and enjoy a short-lived burst of national fervour.

Belgian flag

The National Day always starts with the King and Queen attending a festive Te Deum in the Cathedral of SS Michel et Gudule, after which they proceed to host a parade of armed forces, many of them marching or riding past in their festive costumes. The parade concludes with a fly-past by the airforce, indulging in mild aerobatics.

Many of the Belgian institutions open their doors to the public, and so, for instance, one can take school groups to the Parliament, and ask questions about how it works, or be part of a mock debate. The museums are open free of charge, and some archaeological sites around the royal palace can be visited only on this day.

Between the Parliament building and the royal palace lies a huge park, where all day long special sports activities are organised for children and teenagers. Called “Olympicnic” and held under the auspices of the Belgian Olympic Committee, the event even includes the lighting of a mini Olympic flame. The young people are given cards and set to try out a circuit of the less well known sports, such as archery, beach volleyball, rugby and golf -- and for the small ones rope skipping and even gym dancing to the latest pop music. It is great fun! This year, for the first time, I noticed baseball was also there...

All who finish the course, win a prize -- this year, it was an orange sun hat, worn with pride by many around the park.

The armed forces and other disciplines, such as the fire brigade and the Red Cross, have stands to explain their work to all comers. The European Union had a prominent presence this year, celebrating its own 50th anniversary.

Finally, in the evening, there is a huge fireworks display in front of the royal palace -- a definite "must", with a great atmosphere gathering huge crowds, and always some new creation of beauty. My own commune (Saint-Josse Ten Noode) has its own fireworks immediately afterwards, and I enjoy them almost as much, as they are for the locals, on the local square, and one can get right up to the action. In some positions, one can even get showered with interesting Chinese debris...

Text and photos © Isabelle Prondzynski


More information here about the 2007 events :


A bit of history...

In the 17th century followed Austrian rule, and a few years of French rule under Napoleon. After Napoleon's demise, in 1815, Belgium was reunited with the northern provinces in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, which established an independent Belgian state. The Belgian revolution was initiated by the French-speaking minority who controlled the factories and other economical resources and who did not want to live under a Dutch-speaking administration. The fact that Belgium was mostly Catholic and the Netherlands predominantly Protestant also played a role. Another important factor which played a decisive role was the dramatic gap between the respective economic levels of the southern and northern provinces.


Since the 20th century, the history of Belgium became more and more dominated by the increasing autonomy of its two main communities, the Dutch- and the French-speakers. As an indication of this, since around 1970, there are no longer significant national Belgian political parties, but only Flemish- or French-speaking parties (and one German-speaking party). The regular attempts to re-establish national, Belgian parties end up below 1 percent of the electorate; the Brussels parties either never got started (as with the 'Blauwe Leeuwen' and 'Rode Leeuwen' for the Flemings in Brussels), or got merged into one of the French-speaking liberal parties (such as the French-speaking FDF, which, however, has had a significant influence for years, and still keeps some independence).

As such, the political landscape shows a near-perfect dual political system, reflecting the two underlying dominant communities. While some observers believe that Belgium is well on its way to disintegration, falling apart into two independent states, Flanders and Wallonia, others go on to argue that this would have already happened had it not been for the problem posed by the city of Brussels. Today, many view this as quite improbable, considering how the vast mayority of the inhabitants are in favour of a united Belgium.
© en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgium


Ghent Festivities, Ghent Festival, Gentse Feesten

CLICK for original link ... vrijetij/feesten

Always at Summer time we have our Ghent Festivities. The Ghent Festivities are organised each year an the end of July. That week must include the National Belgian Day - the 21. of July.
During this week, the whole center of Ghent is one festivity zone.
Each day there is a lot to see. We have street theatre, music tents and many more. Infact the festivities go on the whole days and nights. Our Belfort is symbol for our willing for freedom. On top there is a 'golden' dragon with spread wings; a 'wind cock'.

And we have our halter procession. A procession reminding of the time we were terrorised by our 'son' Charles the Fifth. Born at Ghent in 1500. In that procession haltered men (must be real Ghenter during several generations) are walking in a silent procession. Also Charles the Fifth is seen with his soldiers and family.
At the end of that procession the whole procession stops in the shade of the belfry. People and the haltered men are singing the 'Roland Song (our 'national Song) about the clock Roland (or Roeland) who warned the Ghent Population against enemies and desasters. During the song (sung by most of us Ghenters) Charles The Fifth and his clique are showing their back to us public.

During the procession people are still insulting Charles and applauding the haltered men.
We are known as the halter people or rope people (stroppendragers) .

Die Genter Festzeit
Der goldne Belfrieddrachen
Steckt die Zunge aus.

Ghent Festivities
The golden Belfry dragon
Putting out its tongue.

ron rozendaal, July 2008

CLICK for more photos

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


horse guards --
so many and so still
as they wait

all cameras out --
the chessboard buttocks
of the chestnuts


national day --
sound of cathedral bells
and hooves on cobbles

national parade --
yellow balloon meets a


national holiday --
Belgian colours waft
across our street


my windowsill --
a perfect position
for the fly-past


old drone
skims over our roofs --
scaring the crows


as he strikes his first baseball --


all decked out
in Belgian national colours --
two Americans

fireworks --
catching the debris
spinning down

Haiku and photos © Isabelle Prondzynski


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Anonymous said...

Enjoyed greatly the 2007 haiku and photo of horses at parade

much love ...

Anonymous said...

indeed, Belgium, how long to hold ? Flanders, Wallonie and not to forget the German Part (Eupen-Malmedy)...Why can't we live in peace with our neighbours ? Poor little Belgium...
But great haiku here at this site !

Anonymous said...

In Belgien kommt die Sonne
Nie durch die Wolken.

in Belgium the sun never breaks
through the clouds.

Ron. Rozendaal november 2007

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I can write another haiku, with no sun in mid April 2011. Still no Government in Belgium...