For the first time since 2019, Belgium again celebrated its National Holiday on 21 July with a party this year – with the entire Royal family, the traditional military and civilian parade, a concert, fireworks and, of course, fries.
For those who did not manage to attend any of the festivities, decided to stay in because of the rain or simply want to have another look at everything that happened in Brussels on Thursday, here's an overview of the celebrations.
The day kicked off at 10:00, when King Philippe and Queen Mathilde attended the traditional Te Deum mass in the Saints Michel et Gudule Cathedral, along with their children: Princess Eleonore (in blue), Prince Gabriel (blue tie), Crown Princess Elisabeth (in red) and Prince Emmanuel (red tie).
At the same time, the first black-yellow-red signs were seen in the Parc Royal, next to the royal palace, as it was being transformed into a sports village, where activities were organised by local sports clubs, and nearly all Federal Ministers gathered to have fries together.
In the surrounding areas, including at the Place du Petit Sablon and Place Poelaert in front of the Justice Palace, a number of activities, such as fun and folkloristic parades, drum sessions, police demonstrations and initiations were organised.
These, too, were attended by the Royal Couple, as well as by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who showed his Belgitude by visibly enjoying a pint of beer.
Before the start of the military and civilian parade at 16:00, however, umbrellas quickly had to be fetched as Belgium's national day would not be complete without a few showers. By now, the rain has become such a regular occurrence at the 21 July festivities that it is lovingly being called the drache national ("the national downpour") by Belgians.
While it stopped raining shortly after, the traditional air parade with military airplanes and helicopters – whose rehearsals last week had many Brussels residents wondering what was happening – had to be shortened as it was too cloudy.
Defence forces and the Federal Police gave a joint "dynamic demonstration" around the Royal Palace, at which nearly the entire Royal Family was present. As always, the King was escorted to the stage by the Royal Escort.
Belgium's newest princess, Delphine, was also present. She wore a striking red dress by the young Belgian designer Pol Vogels, featuring a white dove as a sign of peace in times of war in Ukraine, she told The Brussels Times.
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New this year was the 'National Apero': pubs, bars and restaurants were invited to make it clear that they would be celebrating as well, by broadcasting the evening concert on their screens, for example. A 'Resto National' was also organised on the Place du Jeu de Balle in the Marolles, where mussels and fries were served.
During the evening, a free concert was organised in the Cinquantenaire Park from 21:00, with Belgian artists such as Coely, Niels Destadsbader, Salvatore Adamo, Netsky, Laura Tesoro, Ruben Block, Jérémie Makiese, Noémie Wolfs, Pommelien Thijs and Yong Yello. Some 60,000 people attended.
After the concert, the royal family turned up again as King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their three children Gabriel, Emmanuel and Eléonore appeared on the stage. Crown Princess Elisabeth was not present.
"We are happy to be here with you, to celebrate with you and the artists. Thank you to the artists for this wonderful evening and to all of you for being here in such large numbers," the King said, followed by a "Long live Belgium" in the three national languages.
Following the short speech, the traditional fireworks over Brussels marked the end of the national holiday.