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August 15th in Belgium

Hi everyone! So apparently we are dealing with national holidays for this issue of the Willamette World News Blog… And obviously this is a topic that we all like to talk about! I have to admit that I had a hard time choosing a holiday because as you might be aware of, we do have a lot of holidays in Belgium, which, once again, is not something that I dislike.

So after thinking about it I just thought I would write about August 15th, which is a national holiday in both Belgium and France. If anyone had to explain what would occur on that particular day, they would probably say that this specific holiday has a religious background and actually marks the Assumption of the Virgin… End of the story? Well yes, if you are not from the city I am from. But in Liege, the 15th of August has developed into a huge and traditional celebration that can be seen as one of the major events of the year for most people in the city.
The festivities take place in the district called Outremeuse, which is considered as the heart of the city’s traditions and folklore, and they last for a whole week, attracting over 100,000 people on the two busiest days (14th and 15th). The religious element is still at the very center of the celebration: on the 15th a whole procession comprised of various folkloric associations carries the Statue of the Black Virgin of Outremeuse through the district to one of the district churches where a Mass in Walloon (the city’s dialect) is organized. The tradition says that if one of the Virgin’s carrier gets tired and has to stop, then it brings bad luck to the house in front of which the procession came to a halt.
In the afternoon of the same day, another bigger and secular procession takes place: it is composed of over 20 folkloric groups from Belgium and abroad: it is a must-see if you ever get the opportunity to come to Liege in August!
A very typical feature of the whole week is that people drink a lot of peket (a really special Liege-based juniper alcohol that can have as many different flavors as you can think of) and party until the early morning for two or three days!
Other activities also take place; the ‘The bouquet procession’ (during which an enormous bunch of flowers-7 meters high and over 50 kilos- is carried in the district) or the so-called ‘tir de campes’ during which gun powder is used to produce a series of explosions. But a very interesting one is Mathy l’Ohe’s funeral: On the 16th, Outremeuse’s inhabitants will display the announcement of Mathy l’Ohe (Walloon for ‘Matthew the Bone) on their windows and around 5 PM, a bone will indeed be buried on Gabriel Square. This funeral symbolizes the end of the festivities and the sadness that goes with it!
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