As the stricter coronavirus measures lead to the closure of popular Christmas markets and put a damper on the holiday season, Flemish farmers will be bringing some cheer with parades of tractors decked out in festive lights.
The parades are often organised by formal associations, but sometimes the initiative comes simply from a local group of friends or a single tractor enthusiast, according to the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
Some of the light processions attract a few dozen tractors, while others feature more than a hundred. And while a few are continuing long-standing traditions, most parades in the region this year will feature new participants.
Belgium was in lockdown last winter and this year Christmas also heralded the arrival of new, stricter coronavirus measures. But the tractor processions are seen as “corona-proof.”
“In Ireland and the United Kingdom, similar processions have also existed for a few years. But it really seems to have grown locally: a nice initiative that attracts many spectators and in which farmers and their neighbours celebrate the end of the year in a positive way,” said Vanessa Saenen, spokesperson for Boerenbond.
Mijn gevoel ?
107 tracteurs mensen. 107 gezinnen die elke dag zorgen voor het voedsel van morgen. Onze Noorderkempen met haar diversiteit en veelzijdigheid. Onze boerenkempen waar land en tuinbouw nog centraal staat ❤
Dat gaan wij echt niet zo maar opgeven. ?
— Mariëlle (@Marielle_Schalk) December 18, 2021
Some farmers spend hours, days or even months, decorating their tractors with thousands of lights, representations of Father Christmas, snowmen or other Christmas figures.
Both spectators and tractor drivers are generally very enthusiastic when an illuminated tractor procession passes through the streets.
“It is nice that people are also happy for once when they see a tractor in their street. During our harvest work, we often get less positive reactions,” said one farmer from Roosdaal.
“Waving people, applause, thumbs up, the best,” said another farmer.
The Flemish towns of Hoogstraten, Lokeren, Huldenberg, Merchtem, Herne, Steenokkerzeel, Werchter, Roosdaal, Kortenaken, Zoersel, Mechelen, Zemst, Beerse, Gooik, Heers, Rummen, Sint-Kruis, Mechelen, Evergem, Lennik, Ternat, Basel, Sint-Niklaas, Desteldonk, Tongeren and Maaseik – and possibly more –have already hosted parades of the decorated tractors.