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A Child's Christmas in Belgium

A Child's Christmas in Belgium

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Published by belgianwaffling
Spare a thought for the children of Belgium this Christmas..
Spare a thought for the children of Belgium this Christmas..

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: belgianwaffling on Nov 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/29/2011

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 AChild’sChristmasinBelgium
ChristmasiscominginBelgium:slowerthaninEngland,withyourOctoberBOGOFsonWaitrosestollen,butit’scomingnonetheless.Thisweekend,thebabyJesusesarrivedinmylocalsupermarket.ThebabyJesuses,orpossiblyJesi,aresoldinblisterpacksoftwo.They’resmall,brightpinksugarfondantinfants,agreenicingloinclothpipedovertheirmid-sectiontopreservemodesty.Here,look.Likethefirstswallowofsummer,thefondantJesisignifythestartofwinterforme.They’remeanttobeusedtodecorateafoetusshapedbriochecalledaCognou,butittasteshorrible,soIjustleavethemaroundthehouse,festivelygatheringdust.IonlybuythembecauseIlikethematteroffactwaytheyringupatthetill:“2xpièceJesus:€1,95”.Long,longagowhenIfirstmoved,whenBelgiumhadagovernment(sortof)andIhadajob(sortof)andEuropehadaneconomy(sortof),theseasonalshockscamethickandfast.First,therewasthebewilderingnotionoftworedsuited,whitebeardedseasonalgiftgiversappearingthreeweeksapart:StNicolasonthe6
th
,thenFatherChristmashotonhisheels.Oristhatwrong?Because,surelythey’rethesameperson?Itriedtogetsomeclarification.“It’seasy”saidmyBelgianfriends.“StNicolaswearsabishop’shatandhe’squitethin,andFatherChristmasisfatwithabobble”.“AndFatherChristmashasreindeer,andStNicolashasamule”saidanother.“Notamule,awhitehorse”.
 
“HegetstheboatfromSpain,doesn’the?”Ihadreadthatinthenewspaper,completewithpicturesoftheSaintdescendingfromahigh-speedmotorlaunchersomewhereontheDutchcoast.“Sometimesit’sahelicopter”.“No,hetravelsbytrain!”Despitetheambientconfusion,theweightofevidencesoonclarifiedthingsinmyhead:FatherChristmaswasgoodcop,SaintNick,withhisbirchswitches,threatsofchildabductionandpointystick,wasquiteobviouslybadcop.Andthebaddestthingabouthimwasthecompanyhekeeps:I’mtalkingaboutthePèreFouettard.Ah,thePèreFouettard.‘FatherWhip’inEnglish,orapparently“FatherFlog”inAmerica.Forthoseofyoufortunateenoughnottohaveencounteredhim,LetmejustreadbrieflyfromWikipedia:
ThemostpopularstoryabouttheoriginofLePèreFouettardisasaninnkeeper,whocapturesthreewealthyboysontheirwaytoenrollinareligiousboardingschool.Alongwithhiswife,theydrugthechildren,slittheirthroats,cuttheminto pieces,andstewtheminabarrel.St.Nicholasdiscoversthecrimeandresurrectsthechildren.Afterthis,LePèreFouettardrepentsandbecomesSt.Nick'spartner.
Festive!Tellus,Wikipedia,whatdoesFatherWhiplooklike?
ThemostcommondepictionofLePèreFouettardisofamanwithasinisterfacedressedindarkrobeswithscragglyunkempthairandalongbeard.Heisarmedwitheitherawhip,alargestick,orwithbundlesofswitches.Someincarnationsofthecharacterhavehimwearingawickerbackpackinwhichchildrencanbe placedandcarriedaway(mostlegendshaveit,toSpain).
 
Well.YoucanstoprightthereWikipediawiththisFatherSteptoebusiness,becausefirstly,theonesherealldresslikesomesinisterspeciesofpantoprincipalboy,allpantaloonsandtights,andsecondly,becauseyouarebeingcoyaboutthemost,erm,
striking
featureofthemodernPèreFouettard,whichisthatHEISAWHITEPERSONMADEUPTOLOOKBLACK.Leeringoutatyoufromadverts,immortalisedinchocolateormarzipan,quitepossiblysittingnexttoyouonthetram:thePèreFouettardisconfirmationthatBelgiumiswherepoliticalcorrectnesscomestocurlupanddieofshame.IdidonceraisethethornyissuewithaBelgiancolleague.“So..aboutthePèreFouettard.Isn’titallabitweird?Theflogging,theputtingchildreninasackandtakingthemtoSpain,theblackface?”“It’saLOVELYtradition”shemaintainedstoutly.“He’sjustsooty,becausehe’sbeendownthechimney”.“ButIthoughthistoricallyitwasprettywellestablishedthathewasSaintNicolas’sMoorishslave?”Shefixedmewithanicystare.“It’s.Anice.Tradition.For.Children.He’s.Sooty”.MyfirstofficeStNicolasteapartywas,Ithink,thepointofnoreturn.Iwasatthetimeworkingforagiganticmultinationalfirmoflawyersandtheinvitetothechildren’sStNicolaspartycameasapleasant,ifoutofcharacter,surprise.Theofficehadreallypushedtheboatoutfortheoccasion.Theentrancehallwasfilledwithballoons,somekindofjollyfolkmusicwasplayingandbasketofspeculoosbiscuitshadreplacedthebrandedmintsatreception.Aphotographertookapictureofmychildren,somewherebetweenapprehensiveandexcitedandwewerewavedthroughtotheparty.

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