Festival Culture in Belgium

Erika Ose is a student at Middle Tennessee State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Brussels, Belgium.

For those of you who have not been to Belgium before, you may not know this, but Belgium is a huge destination for festivals, festivities, and a good time to be had by all. IMG_3693The European summer festival culture is a time for people to get out of the house and socialize over the summer weekends. For Belgium in particular, hosting social gatherings within a family home is rare. Belgian homes are typically kept small and private and socializing with friends is done out in a public place, such as a restaurant, bar—or festival!

IMG_3941Over the last three weekends, I have had the privilege of attending three very different weekend celebrations. On the first weekend of May, three of my friends and I were in Poland when they had their annual May Day festival and Independence Day remembrance, all rolled up into one massive celebration. Last weekend, here in Brussels, there were two events going on simultaneously—the Brussels Capital Region celebration, called Fete de l’Iris, and the Food Truck Festival. Finally, this past weekend, on May 15 and 16, Brussels hosted the annual Belgian Gay Pride Parade and Celebration.

IMG_3953In Poland, their May Day and Independence Day festivities are mostly cultural celebrations. We were treated to a display of traditional Polish dances, and shops had a massive amount of business selling original Polish costumes. There were too many people to count, and everyone there was immensely proud of their Polish history and heritage.

IMG_4180The next weekend, May 7-9, was the European Food Truck Festival and the Brussels Capitol Region Annual Celebration. We ate so much food and listened to live music all afternoon. The stage was set up in front of the Brussels Palais Royale, which was super cool! Because Brussels is such an international city, we heard languages from around the world at the fête. The food trucks came from all around Europe, and all the delicious food only added to the air of celebration. There was a display of bike and skateboarding skills, live musical performances, and my personal favorite: a group of artists did a chalk mural at the Fontaine au Palais de Congres. Despite the stress of finals starting two days later, it was one of my favorite weekends in Brussels.

IMG_4194One week later, it was finally time for our semester in Belgium to come to an end. Our last weekend in Brussels coincided with the annual Belgian Pride parade, so my roommates and I decided that going to see that would be a fabulous way to end our Brussels experience. The Belgian Pride celebration was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. In Belgium, the right to marriage has been guaranteed for same-sex couples since the 1980s, but the air of joy over this momentous achievement has not died down at all. The freedom to live their lives as they choose to live is a great source of pride and happiness for the Belgian LGBT community, and their good cheer was obvious in all aspects of the celebration. Belgian Pride is not something to miss.

IMG_4722As I travel through Europe this summer, I look forward to experiencing many more festivals, fêtes, and celebrations. They are one of the most unique and fun aspects of European life, and I highly recommend participating!!

Tired of Netflix marathons and ready to get out and explore the world? Yeah, we know. Here you go.


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