Belgian Religions


Figure 1.--Most Belgians are Catholic. First Communion has been an important event in the lives of many Belgian children, like this boy. The portrait is undated, but was probably taken in the 1940s.

The country is largely Catholic thanks to Spanish victories in the Dutch Wars for independence. What is now Belgium in fact became known as the Spanish Netherlands. Both the Flemish and Waloons are predominantly Catholic, although the country has become increasingly secular in recent years. As most Belgians are Catholic, First Communion has been an important event in the lives of many Belgian children. There are also minority religions. There are some Protestants. The small Jewish population was decimated by the NAZI World war II Holocaust duting the German World War II occupation. Since World War II a Muslim munority has grown in the country. There are a variety of clothing and costumes associated with religious observation in Belgium.

Religious History

The country is largely Catholic thanks to Spanish victories in the Dutch Wars for independence. What is now Belgium in fact became known as the Spanish Netherlands. Both the Flemish and Waloons are predominantly Catholic, although the country has become increasingly secular in recent years.

Individual Religios

Most Belgians are Christians, although in cecent years this has been culturally more than actual observant Christians. The most important religion is Roman Vatholocism. There is a Protestant minority. The small Jewish community was decimated by the NAZI World war II Holocaust duting the German World War II occupation. Since World War II a Muslim munority has grown in the country.

Choir

HBC has no information specifically on the choral tradition in Belgium. Choir costumes and school uniforms in Belgium appear to be quite similar to French styles. Actually Belgium being somewhat more traditional than France, traditions have persisted longer in Belgium than in France. Hopefully a HBC visitor will eventally provide more details and some interesting insights. Most Belgian choir schools are attached to Catholic colleges. These private schools are high schools, although many also have programs for elmentary-age children. The choir school provides intensive music instruction, but the boys can take advantage of the facilities and educational opportunities of the school at large.

First Communion

Belgium like France is a catholic country. Belgium is also a bilingual country being divided into both French (Waloons) and Dutch (Flemish) speakers. While linguistically divided, both the Waloons and Flemish are Catholics. First Communion has thus been an important event in a Belgian boys life. We believe there may have been social divisions here. We also believe that along with the decline in the importance of religion in Belgium as in much of Western Europe that the event is less important than it used to be. We have little information at this time, but we do know that some boys in the early 20ty century wore sailor suits.

Religious Holidays


New Years (Jnuary 1)

A Dutch reader tells us about a tradition shared by Belgium and Holland. "The HBC description of German Sternsingen vividly reminds me of what our children do either at New Year’s Eve (Nieuwjaarzingen = New Year Singing) or just before Epiphany (Driekoningenzingen, Driekoningen = Three Kings). When and what they do and sing varies somewhat according to local tradition. Essentially they roam from house to house, sing one or more songs, whish people a happy New Year and are given an orange or some sweets or a little money in return. There are a number of traditional songs that are known all over both countries and others that are limited to a certain region or even village. Also, some of the brighter kids will paraphrase well-knowm texts or adapt them to local circumstances, sometimes even touching on topics that have recently occupied the local community. In some places it involves making a primitive musical instrument called foekepot or rommelpot, called rumbling pot in English I think. It is essentially a cylinder covered at one or both ends with a membrane through which a hollow rod of some kind is passed. If you rub it with wet fingers it will produce a buzzing or humming sound. Formerly, wooden or stoneware jars were used and covered with a pig’s bladder, nowadays an tin can and rubber will do the trick."

Easter (March/April)


Christmas (December 25)

In Belgium, St. Nicholas pays two visits to each house. On December 4 he comes to check into the behavior of each child, to find out if they have been naughty or nice. Then on December 6 he returns with just rewards for all, either presents or switches, which he leaves in the shoes or small baskets that have been placed inside near the doorway, where he will easily find them. Just to get on his good side there are snacks of hay, water and carrots left for his horse or donkey. Christmas Day is reserved for religious celebrations and of course Nativity plays sponsored by the churches. They are often performed in 16th century costumes. In small villages, there are often three virtuous men chosen to portray the three Wise Men and go throughout the town, caroling at each doors and receiving small gifts of food.






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Created: November 10, 2003
Last updated: 5:19 PM 5/14/2008