September 27, 2010

French Community Holiday – Belgium

This holiday is celebrated only by the French Community of Belgium. This is mostly made up of people living in the southern half of Belgium (an area known as Walloon Region) plus many living in bilingual Brussels. The people of this community are Belgian, not French, but they speak French as their primary language.

The date for the French Community Holiday commemorates an important battle in the Belgian Revolution—a battle of French-speaking Belgians against the Dutch army. Interestingly, the Flemish Community of Belgium has a parallel holiday (July 11) that commemorates a battle victory of Dutch-speaking Belgians against the French army!

(By the way, there is a third region of Belgium, the German-speaking Community. It is tiny. These three “communities” are official institutions with their own governments.)

On this day, the French Community schools are closed, and there are many free concerts plus plays and sporting events.

Did you know...?

  • Belgium is host of the European Union—in other words, most of the EU's institutions are located there. The headquarters of NATO are also located in Belgium.

  • Because both Dutch and French are quite closely related to English, and many Belgians from both language regions learn to speak English in schools, young Flemings and Walloons often chat with each other in English! That means that English is Belgium's lingua franca (a French term, adopted by the English language, that means “common language”)....The only time I've been to Belgium, I stayed with a French-speaking family in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, near Antwerp. And, by the way, I ran into a lot of people who didn't seem to speak much English.

  • Belgium is 321 times smaller than the U.S., but it has the same population as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska COMBINED!

Belgian Food Fun Facts

Belgium is known for chocolate. It produces about 220,000 tonnes (in the U.S., this would be 242,500 tons) of chocolate per year. According to my sources, the world's biggest chocolate seller is the airport in Brussels, Belgium! 

Belgians claim to have invented the fried-potato treat that are called French fries by Americans and chips by Brits. I love the fresh, hot fries/chips sold out of street carts in Belgium—partly because of all the yummy sauces we could dip them into! (I think there were 30 or 40 sauces offered by a typical friterie.

With such delicious fresh fries so easily available, it's no wonder that Belgians eat (on average) 165 pounds per year! 

Belgium is also known for its waffles and rice tarts and other bakery treats. 

Belgium has one of the lowest proportions of McDonald's restaurants per person in the developed world (seven times less than the U.S.).


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