Belgium’s Christmas spirit

In Belgium, even the greenest Grinch finds it hard not to participate in the Christmas spirit. From the biggest city to the smallest town, the streets of Belgium will be adorned with fairy lights and festive decorations. Here, the holiday season is a time to celebrate with cosy family gatherings and exciting parties.

Looking for tips and pointers on how to celebrate Christmas in Belgium? We’ve got you covered.


Christmas traditions in Belgium

Belgium doesn’t have one but two Christmas figures! In Belgium, Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are two different people. Saint Nicholas' Day is celebrated on the 6th of December and is primarily a children’s feast. The night before, children will put out carrots for Saint Nicholas’s horse, and in some regions they’ll also leave a glass of beer for his helper Zwarte Piet (Dutch) / Père Fouettard (French). If they had behaved well all year, in the morning they’ll find small toys and sweets in return. A typical biscuit that is baked around Saint Nicholas’ Day is speculoos, which is filled with spices just like gingerbread. And children aren’t the only ones who enjoy this delicious treat as the biscuits pair wonderfully with a nice cup of coffee.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Belgium are traditionally spent with relatives. Families gather to do what Belgians do best: enjoy good food! A traditional Belgian Christmas dinner is usually a three course meal with a main dish of game, roast or seafood. A traditional Christmas dessert is the Yule log (kerststronk in Dutch / Bûche de Noël in French), a sponge cake covered in chocolate buttercream and decorated to resemble a wooden log. Even though the American tradition, where it is Santa Claus who leaves gifts beneath the Christmas tree on the night before Christmas is definitely catching on with Belgian families, the majority of families still hold on to the tradition of leaving presents - to be unwrapped after dinner or later in the evening on Christmas Eve- under the Christmas tree themselves with no reference to Santa Claus. On Christmas Day, Belgians visit the extended family and gifts are given over coffee and cake.

New Year’s Eve is the time to party for Belgians. Most will go out for dinner with friends or family followed by partying until well after midnight. Most venue locations will organise New Year’s parties and major cities will host outdoor concerts or parties on their main town squares, including lots of fireworks and a joyous countdown spectacle. At midnight everyone exchanges greetings for the New Year with at least three kisses on the cheeks. New Year’s Day is traditionally spent with the family or, depending on how hard you had partied, at home relaxing. In Flanders and some parts of Wallonia, children will traditionally read a New Year’s Letter with well wishes, often in the form of a poem, to their grandparents or godparents. Most children will have spent plenty of time decorating their letter with a little help from their parents or a school teacher. In exchange, they receive some money for their piggy bank.

The holiday season in Belgium ends on the 6th of January with the Three Kings' Day (Driekoningen in Dutch / La fête des Rois in French). Children dress up as the three kings and go from house to house singing the song “We Three Kings” and in return receive a few coins or sweets. Bakeries will sell what is known as a King Cake (Koningentaart in Dutch / Galette des Rois in French), a frangipane cake with a paper crown on it. There’s a trinket like a black bean or a toy hidden in the cake and whoever finds the trinket is allowed to wear the paper crown and be king or queen for a day.

Festive markets in Belgium

ChristmasMarketsInBelgium©Pieter-Jelle De Brue/©Tourist Office Bruges/©Antwerpen Toerisme & Congres

There’s no better place to dive into Belgium’s seasonal delicacies than at the Christmas markets. Every major city in Belgium hosts a Christmas market with decorated food stalls or chalets. Enjoy festively decorated sweets and savoury dishes at the numerous food stalls and cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine. All Christmas markets will have at least one stall where you can try Belgian jenever, a strong liqueur made from the juniper berry that comes in many flavours from fruity to creamy vanilla and yes, even chocolate of course!

As the Christmas markets in Belgium begin well before Christmas, they’re a big favourite among locals for Christmas shopping. You can find many Christmas gifts, from readymade gift baskets to handmade trinkets and typical Belgian souvenirs such as delicate lace from Bruges.

In addition to food and gift stalls, most Christmas markets will also offer all kinds of fun attractions and events such as ice skating rinks, a Christmas stall with live animals, Santa’s village or music concerts. Each market has its own unique appeal but even if you visit just one, you will definitely experience that magical Christmas feeling.

Christmas markets overview
  • Christmas Market Bruges
    Experience that cosy Christmas feeling at the Christmas market of Bruges. This Christmas market with an ice skating rink is one of the most picturesque and vibrant markets in Belgium. At the same time, you will also get to experience the beautiful historic centre of Bruges.
  • Winterland Hasselt
    This cosy winter village offers Flanders’ largest mobile ice skating rink, the House of Santa Claus and a Ferris wheel. For the little ones there is also a small Christmas train. The cosy atmosphere of the café next to the ice skating rink exceeds that of renowned Christmas markets in Germany.
  • Winterwonders Brussels
    Atmospheric Christmas activities take place at many locations in the city. There is the Christmas market with an ice skating rink, a sledding track, a big wheel around the Fish market and a delicious food plaza around the Bourse/Beurs. Permanent light display with sound and music at the Grand Place.
  • Liège, the Christmas city
    Liegè’s Christmas village is Belgium’s oldest and largest Christmas market. Two hundred festive stalls offer you the best of local produce and unique gifts.
  • Christmas market Namur
    Visit one of the many chalets for authentic handmade gifts or let your inner child loose on the ice skating rink. Every weekend concerts, choirs and folklore groups liven up the streets of Namur.
  • Christmas market Mons
    Let the festive lights of Mons guide you to the beautiful Christmas market where magical events take place featuring goblins, stilt walkers and acrobats.
  • Winter season Leuven
    Stroll through one of the loveliest Christmas markets in the country, enjoy an intimate Christmas concert, sip a sparkling winter beer or get lost in the enchanting streets lit by candlelight and filled with conviviality.
  • Christmas market Ghent
    Over 40 international stallholders offer typical products from their home country. Warm your hands and heart with mulled wine and enjoy delicious snacks too. A varied music programme will liven up the Christmas market and children can get their faces painted on Wednesdays.
  • Christmas market Antwerp
    One of the biggest Christmas markets in the country! Walk through the city to see the entire market with international stalls. Enjoy the ice skating rink in the city centre.

Ready to enjoy Belgium's Christmas spirit? Don't hesitate and book your tickets now!

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