Living in Belgium? Here’s a list of all the Belgian public holidays you need to know in 2020, as well as other important dates to make a note of on your calendar.
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.
To ensure you don’t miss out on anything important, our guide puts together a list of Belgium’s public holidays and important dates for your calendar.
Introduction to Belgian public holidays
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 (a holiday is called 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.
The now-abdicated king Albert II of Belgium in a military parade on Belgium’s national day.
One of the most important holidays 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.
It’s important to note is that if a Belgian holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the public holiday is not typically transferred to another day in the week.
Belgian public holidays 2020
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, unless other Belgian holidays fall on a Sunday:
- Wednesday, 1 January: New Year’s Day
- Monday, 13 April: Easter Monday
- Friday, 1 May: Labour Day
- Thursday, 21 May: Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
- Monday, 1 June: Whit Monday – the seventh Monday after Easter, also known as Pentecost Monday
- Tuesday, 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
- Saturday, 15 August: Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)
- Sunday, 1 November: All Saints’ Day – note that the following day, Monday 2 November, is not given as a public holiday
- Wednesday, 11 November: Armistice Day
- Friday, 25 December: Christmas Day
Regional Belgian public holidays 2020
There is one regional public holiday in Belgium for each of the different language-speaking areas:
- Saturday, 11 July: 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, 27 September: Day of the French-speaking Community – commemorates the victory of the patriots against the Dutch army in Brussels in 1830;
- Sunday, 15 November: Day of the German-speaking Community – the date a decree was published to prescribe the arms, flag, colors and community day of the German-speaking area.
Important dates in Belgium 2020
These Belgian holidays are not typically granted as public holidays in Belgium, but some are widely celebrated around the country:
- Monday, 6 January: Epiphany (Three Kings’ Day)
- Sunday, 29 March: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts
- Sunday, 10 May: Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May)
- Friday, 8 May: Feast of the Iris – Feast Day of the Brussels-Capital Region
- Sunday, 14 June: Father’s Day (second Sunday in June)
- Sunday, 15 September: Feast Day of the Walloon Region (the third Sunday of September)
- Sunday, 25 October: Clocks go back one hour as daylight saving time (DST) ends
- Monday, 2 November: All Souls’ Day – a Christian holiday, although public offices typically close
- Sunday, 15 November: Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast – although not a public holiday, most government offices close
- Sunday, 6 December: St Nicholas Day – when Sinterklaas/Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents
- Sunday, 21 June and Monday, 21 December: Solstice – longest and shortest days of the year
Belgian school holidays
See our guide to school holidays in Belgium.
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 our 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, the 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, Tonnekensbrand occurs on the first Sunday of Lent. To mark the occasion, the mayor, councillors and aldermen are presented with a glass of wine, which has a small live fish inside. They drink a mouthful and swallow the fish before pretzels are handed out, iconic of Christian symbolism.
You can read about carnival Belgian holidays in our guide to celebrating Belgian carnival.