As the government this week announced its latest adjustments to the rules of confinement, including the cancellation of all major events until 31 August, Belgium looked forward to a summer without arts festivals, theatre festivals and especially music festivals.
Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter and Couleur Cafe are gone, as is Kunstfestivaldesarts, and the Ommegang will move indoors.
But one thing remains certain – for the time being at least: the Meyboom ceremony will take place on 9 August, as it has for the last 712 years. And we have the word of Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close.
The Meyboom (or Meiboom) is a beech tree, which is cut from the Sonian Forest every year and carried through Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse and Brussels to the corner of Rue des Sables and Rue du Marais, in a rather forgotten area of the centre of Brussels close to the Comic Strip Museum. There it is “planted” in remembrance of a victory of Brussels over Leuven in 1213, the details of which are lost to time.
To add to the mythology, the tree has to be planted by 5:00 PM on the day, otherwise Leuven wins and can take it. Since it is not a living tree, it is removed the next day.
Close himself has taken part in the carrying of the tree, and assured Bruzz that the ceremony would go ahead. However, given that the event usually attracts people in their hundreds, it is technically covered by the ban on major events.
“We are going to have an adapted ceremony and we will plant a tree, probably a smaller one, because we must also continue to give hope,” he said.
“The Meyboom also stands for hope in addition to folklore. People must continue to respect the rules and support the care staff. You need those little moments of hope.”