Public holidays in Belgium

Belgium's national holidays and other important Belgian holidays 2017

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Here is a list of public and regional Belgium holidays in 2017, plus Belgian school holidays, daylight savings, Mother's and Father's Days and other important holidays in Belgium.

Whether you're living in Belgium or just visiting, it's important to note the dates of Belgium's holidays as many businesses typically close. Annually there are 10 Belgian national holidays for workers, seven of which have fixed dates each year.

Most of the holidays in Belgium are observed nationwide but there are three public holidays in Belgium that are only observed by the language communities: Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and the German-speaking provinces in eastern Wallonia.

During Belgium's public holidays (jour férié in French and feestdag in Dutch), Belgian businesses and organisations – with the exceptions of police stations and hospitals – close, although this is increasingly changing. One of the important holidays in Belgium is Belgium national day, celebrated with big festivities and military shows, although there are many popular regional Belgian holidays, such as carnival in Belgium and a number of top Belgian festivals, which are not official Belgian public holidays.

When Belgium's bank holidays fall on a Thursday or Tuesday, some companies close on the Friday or Monday to ‘make the bridge’ (faire le pont/de brug maken) and give everyone a long weekend away from work. The law prohibits working during national holidays in Belgium, although exceptions exist; in such cases, an employee should be rewarded a compensation day within six weeks of any worked Belgian holiday.

If a Belgian holiday fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the public holiday is not typically transferred to another day in the week. Below is a list of Belgium's national holidays and other important Belgian holidays in 2017 to note on your calendar.

Belgium holidays – Belgium national dayThe now-abdicated king Albert II of Belgium in a military parade on Belgium's national day.

Belgium's national holidays 2017

There are officially 12 Belgian national holidays but two fall on a Sunday – Easter Sunday and Whit Sunday (Whitsun or Pentecost) – typically giving workers 10 Belgian public holidays, or less other Belgian holidays fall on a Sunday.

  • Sunday 1 January: New Years Day
  • Monday 17 April: Easter Monday
  • Monday 1 May: Labour Day
  • Thursday 25 May: Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
  • Monday 5 June: Whit Monday – the seventh Monday after Easter, also known as Pentecost Monday.
  • Friday 21 July: Belgium National Day (Belgian Independence Day) – commemorates the day Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium in 1831.
  • Tuesday 15 August: Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)
  • Wednesday 1 November: All Saints' Day
  • Saturday 11 November: Armistice Day
  • Monday 25 December: Christmas Day

Regional Belgian public holidays 2017 

There is one regional public holiday in Belgium for each of the different language-speaking areas.

  • Tuesday July 11: Celebration of the Golden Spurs (Day of the Flemish Community) – celebrates the victory of the count of Flanders and the borough militia against the king of France outside Courtrai.
  • Sunday September 24: Day of the French-speaking Community – commemorates the victory of the patriots against the Dutch army in Brussels in 1830.
  • Wednesday November 15: Day of the German-speaking community – the date a degree was published toprescribe the arms, flag, colours and community day of the German-speaking area.

Important holidays in Belgium

These Belgian holidays are not typically granted as public holidays in Belgium but some are widely celebrated around the country.

  • Friday 6 January: Epiphany (Three Kings' Day)
  • Sunday 26 March: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts
  • Sunday 14 May: Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May)
  • Monday May 8: Feast of the Iris – Feast Day of the Brussels-Capital Region
  • Sunday June 11: Father’s Day (second Sunday in June)
  • Sunday September 17: Feast Day of the Walloon Region (the third Sunday of September)
  • Sunday 29 October: Clocks go back one hour (DST ends)
  • 2 November: All Souls Day – a Christian holiday although public offices typically close.
  • Wednesday 15 November: Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast – although not a public holiday, most government offices close.
  • Wednesday 6 December: St Nicholas Day – when Sinterklass/Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents.
  • June 21 and December 21: Solstice – longest and shortest days of the year.

Belgium school holidays

School calendars vary according to region. You can find Belgium's school holidays for 2016–2017 for Wallonia-Bruxelles at the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and for Flanders at Vlaanderen.

Below is an approximate calendar of Belgium's school holidays:

  • Carnival holiday: late February to early March
  • Easter break: changing yearly, typically around March or April
  • Summer break: late July to late August/early September
  • Fall break: late October to early November
  • Christmas break: From Christmas Day to Three Kings' Day.

Festival holidays in Belgium

Belgium’s cities burst alive with colourful festivals throughout the year, perfect to seen on a weekend holiday in Belgium. Belgium’s zany and colourful festivals celebrate everything from bears and beer to witches and giants – some dating hundreds of years old – alongside a good collection of film, music and theatre festivals. See Expatica's list of top Belgian festivals.

Carnival in Belgium is an important part of cultural heritage and happens every year at Lent, mostly in smaller towns and villages in Wallonia. The most famous carnival is in Binche, not far from Charleroi. The Carnaval de Binche is several hundred years old and has been listed by UNESCO because of its cultural significance and longevity. There are strict rules for taking part: only men born in Binche can don the traditional Gilles costume. The costumes are wonderfully outrageous and carry strange, secret symbols. The festivities last three days (the best day is Shrove Tuesday), culminating in a parade where boys throw blood oranges into the crowd as gifts.

In Malmédy, its carnival involves masked men in hats decorated with ostrich feathers, grabbing at onlookers with their long wooden pincers hapetchâr (flesh snatchers). They won’t let go until you say sorry.

While in nearby Stavelot, the Carnaval de la Laetare des Blancs-Moussis is renowned for its Lenten parade of a couple hundred local men clad in white monks’ robes and hoods with long red noses, making their way through the town throwing confetti and swinging at bystanders with inflated dried pig bladders.

In Geraardsbergen on the first Sunday of Lent is the Tonnekensbrand. The mayor, councilors and aldermen are presented with a glass of wine with small live fish inside. They drink a mouthful and swallow a fish before pretzels are handed out, iconic of Christian symbolism.

You can read about carnival Belgian holidays in Expatica's guide to celebrating Belgian carnival.


Expatica

Photo credit (CC-Licence): Paul Hermans via Wikimedia Commons (Belgium national day).

 
 

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