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Issue 26

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The Bonfires of Belgium

Marcelin Bazier, Jeanne Wintquin, François Valentin,
and Caroline Dendas from Belgium

Bonfires of Belgium
Photo from Sebastien Lenelle
In Belgium, the people are used to lighting a bonfire to celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring.

 
If you come to Belgium in late winter and if you see bonfires at night, don’t think it’s a riot or a catastrophe of some kind. It’s just a Belgian tradition.

As a matter of fact, in many villages of southern Belgium, the people are used to lighting a bonfire to celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring.


These bonfires are usually rather high (some 15 meters or so…) and a snowman or a witch is tied up on top of them.

As the superstition goes, when you see 7 bonfires from the same spot at the same time you don’t have anything to fear about witches.

There is also another tradition according to which when two lovers see the 7 bonfires in the same circumstances (same spot, same time…), they will get married the same year. Amazingly other people think that if they eat pancakes on the bonfire night, they’ll be protected from bad flies.

There aren’t so many places in Belgium where you can see 7 bonfires simultaneously. Therefore, you should come to Bouge, a little village in the suburbs of Namur (the capital city of “la Wallonie” in the French speaking part of the country…) at the end of February. From there if the weather is fine you’re likely to see the 7 fires being lit all around the villages surrounding the town.

Some people believe in these superstitions and others think that they’re stupid. Anyway, if you’re afraid of getting into trouble with a witch of your acquaintance, you now know what you have to do.


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