We previously stopped off in Bangladesh to see how they celebrated Christmas. In today's post we take a look at Christmas in Belgium.
December the 5th & 6th are celebrated in Belgium as St Nicholas' Eve and St Nicholas's Day, and then the 25th December is the religious Christmas.
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Advent wreaths made from fir or leylandii greenery with four candles are used during Advent. Also, lights and Christmas trees are common decorations. Christmas trees are decorated with lights, baubles, garlands and a star on the top.
Houses are sometimes decorated with lights, reindeer, or a Santa climbing up the roof, as well as a nativity scene. Churches often have a "real" nativity scene with live animals and constant choir music playing outside.
Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace along with a gift for Sinterklaas (St. Nick) which is typically either a drawing or biscuits. Tangerines, gingerbread, chocolate and Mokies (letter-shaped cookies) are usually left for Sinterklaas. They may also leave a carrot for his horse and something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, Sinterklaas's assistant). Presents are left by Zwarte Piet in and around the children's shoes, but if you've been naughty then he'll take you back to Spain in his sack.
Advent wreaths and chocolate advent calendars are also common and an advent song is sung in schools when the candles are lit (one per week).
Christmas markets are set up in the weeks before Christmas where people buy Christmas presents, decorations and food, including Jenever (Gin), Glühwein (hot wine) and Smoutebollen (deep fried sweet dumplings). Ice skating with friends is also a very popular activity.
At school, Christmas parties commonly play pass the parcel.
Small family gifts are exchanged and opened on Christmas Eve. On TV, films Home Alone and Phantom Of The Opera are always shown, as well as Disney films.
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Most families have a special meal on Christmas Eve that starts with an aperitif (alcoholic drink) and snacks like crisps, mini-pizzas and soups, followed by a starter course (typically seafood) and then stuffed turkey with potato croquettes.
The typical dessert is Kerststronk which is a chocolate Christmas log made of sponge with cream, covered in chocolate butter cream or ice-cream cake.
The Christmas day breakfast is the same as the traditional Sunday breakfast eaten throughout the year which consists of crusty rolls with butter and cold meats, followed by pastries. In the south of Belgium, a sweet bread in the shape of baby Jesus called Cougnou is eaten.
Our next destination in our Christmas around the world series investigate how Bolivia celebrates Christmas.
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