Public holidays in Belgium

Public holidays in Belgium 2016

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Here is a list of public and regional holidays in Belgium in 2016, plus school holidays, daylight savings, Mother's and Father's Days and other important dates in the Belgian calendar.

If you're living in Belgium, mark your calendars with the below important dates of Belgian public holidays. Belgium has 10 official public holidays each year, seven of which have fixed dates each year.

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

During public holidays (jour férié in French and feestdag in Dutch), Belgian businesses and organisations – with the exceptions of police stations and hospitals – close. When holidays fall on a Thursday or Tuesday, some companies close on the Friday or Monday to ‘make the bridge’ (de brug maken/faire le pont) and give everyone a long weekend away from work.

The law prohibits working during public holidays, although exceptions exist; an employee should be rewarded a compensation day within six weeks of any worked public holiday. Below is a list of public holidays and important dates in 2016.

National and public holidays in Belgium 2016

*Observed only by the respective communities.

  • January 1: New Years Day 
  • March 27/28: Easter Sunday/Monday
  • May 1: Labour Day 
  • May 5: Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
  • May 15/16: Whit Sunday/Monday – the seventh Sunday/Monday after Easter, also known as Pentecost Sunday/Monday.
  • 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.
  • July 21: National Day (Belgian Independence Day) – commemorates the day Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium in 1831.
  • August 15: Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)
  • September 27: *Day of the French-speaking Community – commemorates the victory of the patriots against the Dutch army in Brussels in 1830.
  • November 1: All Saints' Day
  • November 11: Armistice Day 
  • November 15: *Day of the German-speaking community
  • December 25: Christmas Day

Other important dates

  • January 6: Epiphany (Three Kings' Day)
  • March 27: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts
  • May 8: Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May)
  • May 8: *Feast of the Iris – Feast Day of the Brussels-Capital Region
  • June 12: Father’s Day (second Sunday in June)
  • September 18: *Feast Day of the Walloon Region (the third Sunday of September)
  • October 30: Clocks go back one hour (DST ends)
  • November 15: Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast – although not a public holiday, most government offices close.
  • December 6: St Nicholas Day – when Sinterklass/Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents.
  • June 20 and December 21: Solstice – longest and shortest days of the year

School holidays

School calendars vary according to region. You can find dates for 2015–2016 for Wallonia-Bruxelles at the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, and for Flanders at Vlaanderen.

Belgian festival holidays

Belgium’s cities burst alive with colourful festivals throughout the year, perfect to seen on a weekend holiday. 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 is an important part of Belgian 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 holidays in Expatica's guide to celebrating Belgian carnival.


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