21st of july, Axel Red, Batle of the golden Spurs, Belgian National Day, Belgie een geschiedenis zonder land, Flemish, goedendag, goudensporenslag, Pain Quotidien, Raymond Van het Groenewoud, Walloons, Why on earth
It took me a while to realize that B.N.D. stands for ‘Belgian National Day’. Obviously this post comes with a bit of a delay, as the Belgian national holiday is on July 21.
Maybe you already know that my country of origin, Belgium, is quite a complicated one. As a matter of fact I am now reading a book called “Belgium, a history without country” (België, een geschiedenis zonder een land), a title that is, unless you are Belgian, just a tiny little bit confusing.
The boarder between the two linguistic parts of Europe, Romanic South (Latin based languages) and Germanic North (German based languages) runs right through the middle of this little country. Belgium is in fact just the mere sum of Flemish, Walloons (French speaking) and Brussels (bilingual). We are Flemish, Brusselaar/Bruxelois or Walloon, but no Belgian.
Our differences can go so far as that our country has been without a government for about a year and a half, fighting over little details between the different communities while the economy in the whole of Europe was taking a serious downfall. We, Belgians, had other things on our minds.
But I wonder, are things changing? Or is it just (my) perception? I am already less fanatic Flemish and more Belgian then my parents ever were, and my kids call themselves Belgian. No doubt about that. Ok, Flemish Belgian. Things aren’t changing that fast.
Now I seem to forget the day, a couple of years ago when we were still living in Belgium, that I got a phone call from my sons’ school : he had (together with the rest of the schools boarding boys) detention, as they were very proud to having revived the Battle of the Golden Spurs (Guldensporenslag), a battle between Flemish and French that took place on July 11th in 1302, which the Flemish won. Probably the only battle ‘the Flemish’ ever won, but well. All the Flemish boys in school had ‘attacked’ the Walloon boys (who go to school in Flanders because their good parents think it necessary for them to learn Flemish, and because schools in Flanders just happen to be better then the ones in the south of the country), only this time they didn’t use the geldon (goedendag) but pillows, and the teachers made an end to the fight long before the Flemish kids had a chance to win it a 2nd time.
So I guess you are not surprised that I am late writing about the national holiday, as yes, we never ever celebrated it. It is just a day like any other. But when I, just a few days before the 21st, saw the invitation to the ‘BND’ in the ‘Pain Quotidien’ (a popular Belgian breakfast restaurant) in New York I was tempted to go and see the performing artists, Raymond Van het Groenewoud and Axel Red, and when my daughter saw the invitation she went completely crazy and cried out: “Mom! We must go!”
(Raymond singing the ‘classic’ ‘Je Veux l’amour’, his desperate cry for love)
And so we went. It would be her first, and also mine, BND. And on a hut sunny afternoon in NY we went inside a dark theatre, where Raymond was giving the best of himself, where everyone was drinking beer, eating waffles or French fries, and singing as loud as they could, while waving little Belgian flags. The national feeling was very present, but the strangest thing was, Flemish and Walloons were as one and they spoke (guess what) English to each other, which is -both for the Flemish as the Walloons- their 3th language.
But although the concert was great, and it felt good to have some typical Belgian food for a change -I don’t drink beer- it wasn’t exactly a spectacularly fun feast, but it will definitely not be forgotten. It was our first BND, and we were in NY.
N.B. The Flemish also have a national holiday, which is –contradictory- no holiday unless you work at the Flemish ministry, this day is the commemoration of that battle of golden spurs on 11th of July in 1302.