Here are some facts about Belgian Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations.
- Christmas in Belgium includes some traditions from nearby Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
- Visiting Christmas markets is popular, and people buy presents, decorations and seasonal food and drink.
- Children in Belgium are visited by two Santas — Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas arrives first on Christmas Eve and children who have been bad are given stones and twigs.
- Children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace, rather than hang up a stocking. St. Nicholas is said to have a horse, rather than reindeer, so a carrot is often left.
- The main Christmas meal is usually eaten on Christmas Eve. Seafood is popular, along with a Christmas cake in the shape of a yule log, and plenty of red wine.
- Venison, boar and rabbit dishes are also popular at Christmas time in Belgium. Deep fried sweet dumplings are also enjoyed over the holiday, as well as sweet bread shaped like the baby Jesus.
- Chocolate advent calendars are popular, as well as advent calendars made from flowers and branches.
- Belgian Christmas wreaths traditionally have four candles, and one is lit each week in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
- Nativity scenes are popular Belgium. Many churches have a ‘real’ nativity scene with live oxen, donkeys and sheep and regular performances by the local choir.
- Brussels has a wonderful Christmas market over the holidays. Over 250 stalls are packed into one of the city’s squares, selling chocolates, baked goods, mulled wine, and Christmas decorations.
- Belgium is proud of its chocolate, and special Christmas chocolates are filled with nuts, cream or liquor. Belgians also drink a lot of its more than 600 varieties of beer during the holiday season.
- As in other countries, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. Children dress up as the three Wise Men and go from door to door, asking for money or treats, and singing.
What next? Learn more about Belgium, or visit our Christmas Around the World page to discover how Christmas is celebrated in other countries.