Traditional Christmas Greetings: Joyeux Noel" (French) and "Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar" (Dutch)
Location: Western Europe
Tree Type: Cultural and Traditional
Decorations: Christmas trees are a recent addition to Belgian Christmas traditions. Families who choose to decorate trees for the holidays use a variety of ornaments. Many families hang spiced cookies from the branches of their tree, while the Museum of Science and Industry's is covered with fruit that represents the rich agricultural bounty of Belgium.
Traditions: Though they are not often visited by Santa Claus on December 24th, children in Belgium enjoy two visits from St. Nicholas. He visits each village for the first time on December 4th to check on each child's behavior, then returns on the 6th with treats for those who have been good and switches for those who haven't. These gifts are left in baskets in front of the doorways in return for hay, water, and carrots that children put out for St. Nicholas' horse.
Plays and scenes depicting the nativity are popular in Belgium, and many date back to the 16th century. In smaller villages, the three kings sing carols from door to door on January 6th while families are enjoying their Christmas Eve meal of Aarappel Kroketjes, fried potato croquettes, and Speculoos, cookies made with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In keeping with the holiday spirit, they are rewarded with food and drink at each home.