Christmas in Belgium
Christmas in Belgium

Flavors of Belgium

St. Nicholas' Day - December 6

Belgium doesn’t have one but two Christmas figures! In Belgium, Saint Nicholas ( the patron of school children, since he is said to have revived three children that an unscrupulous pork butcher had turned into sausage meat!) and Santa Claus are two different people. Saint Nicholas' Day is primarily a children’s feast. The night before, children will put out carrots for Saint Nicholas’s horse, and in some regions they’ll also leave a glass of beer for his helper Zwarte Piet (Dutch) / Père Fouettard (French). If they had behaved well all year, in the morning they’ll find small toys and sweets in return. A typical biscuit that is baked around Saint Nicholas’ Day is speculoos, which is filled with spices just like gingerbread. And children aren’t the only ones who enjoy this delicious treat as the biscuits pair wonderfully with a nice cup of coffee.
In university towns, students leave the classrooms and parade in the streets, singing and drinking. These festivities are funded in part by a collection that the students take up early in the day, beer mugs in hand. Traditionally the burghers who refused to donate were pelted with flour and eggs. Though this tradition is dying out, don't say you haven't been warned!


Christmas in Belgium 1

Also known as cougnole in certain regions or bread of Jesus, cougnou is a Viennese pastry typical of Belgium consumed during the periods of Saint Nicholas and Christmas. It is a brioche bread whose shape is reminiscent of the child Jesus swaddled. Raisins or chocolate chips are sometimes added to the dough, accompanied by grains of sugar.

Christmas in Belgium 2

Pâté Gaumais
The pâté gaumais is a pie made from dough raised and baked. It is stuffed with noble pieces of pork, marinated in wine, or vinegar, with spices and herbs, according to the methods used in Gaume (Belgian Lorraine). This meat pie is typical of the regions; all butchers and bakers make it every year on December 26th.

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