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    Belgium guest of honour at Strasburg Christmas market

    Belgium is to be the guest of honour at the 444th Christmas market in Strasburg, which will open on Friday. The “Strasburg, Christmas Capital” campaign, which the organisers expect will pull in approximately 2 million visitors, will welcome around 15 Belgian chalets on place Gutenberg, all promoting products from Belgium. The small Christmas market which started in 1570 near the cathedral will include a total of 300 chalets offering local crafts and food, spread out this year over 11 sites around the city illuminated by Christmas lights.

    The Christmas lights will be switched on Friday night at the foot of a huge 30-metre Christmas tree in the Hyper-Centre. Over 500 cultural events are planned throughout December, including concerts, exhibitions, and activities for children.

    As in previous years, hotel and restaurant managers and shopkeepers are delighted: the economic benefits generated by the Christmas market for the local economy is estimated to reach 250 million euros, according to the Regional Observatory for Tourism in Alsace, and the initial cost of 2.5 million euros is shouldered by the local community.

    Although Strasburg is hoping to resist certain commercial excesses and to consolidate respect for traditional values, there will be an exception this year to honour the country hosted for the event, Belgium.

    “Visitors will be able to taste real Belgian chips, the so-called French fries,” jokes Dirk Van Eeckhout, the Belgian ambassador to the European Council in Strasburg. He also promises a taste of Belgian waffles, marshmallows, chocolates and black pudding.

    But though the mayor, Roland Ries, smiles as he mentions a Christmas “inspired by Belgian chips”, the deputy mayor, Alain Fontanel, warns that there will be no “extension of this policy to the rest of the Christmas market”.

    Christopher Vincent (Source: Belga)