The 21st of July is the national day of Belgium.
It is a public holiday there for everyone — except the unlucky few who have to work, of course!
Banks, post offices, government offices, and most stores are closed. Supermarkets may be open in the morning so people can do a last-minute stock-up on food for parties with friends.
The night before, there is an open-air National Ball held in Place du Jeu de Balle in Brussels. It is free, and everyone is invited to come and dance. This started in 2003.
The actual day starts at 10:00 am with a Te Deum mass at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula in Brussels, attended by the Belgian Royal Family.
Public celebrations also start at the same time. The activities today will include concerts, parades, fireworks, dancing, music, performances, food trucks, sports games, street fairs, lots of street food, and majorettes everywhere, as well as a national televised speech from the monarch.
Mussels and French fries are served in a huge open air tent next to Brussel’s famous 365 day a year flea market.
At 4 p.m. in the afternoon, there is a military parade with an aircraft flyover, and there are musical fireworks at 11 p.m..
Events are held in other Belgian cities too, such as Mons and Jurbise, and you can also follow the day’s festivities in the capital on TV if you can’t make it into Brussels.
It often rains on the day, sadly — but that doesn’t slow anyone down!
Activities for today
- Have some mussels and chips, a traditional Belgian dish, either at home by making them, or go out for some;
- have mayonnaise with your French fries;
- cook French fries Belgian style by frying them twice (recipe below).
Belgian fries twice-fried (on Epicurious)
Not everyone in Belgium knows the reason why today is celebrated!
In Belgium, the 21st of July celebrates the day in 1831 when Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became the first constitutional monarch of an independent and free Belgium. He ascended to the throne on this day after swearing allegiance to the constitution for the new country.
A year before, in 1830, Belgium had thrown off the yolk of Dutch oppression, becoming independent on 4th October 1830.
National Day was originally celebrated on 27 September, to mark the 1830 expulsion date.
In 1890, it was changed to the 21st of July date.
In Dutch, the day is called “Nationale feestdag van België“. In French, the day is called “Fête nationale belge“.
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