How Does Belgium Celebrate Christmas?

In Belgium, families get together for a meal on Christmas Eve, and children set out shoes in front of the fireplace to receive gifts. Children also get presents on December 6th, which is St. Nicholas' Day.

Santa Claus is referred to by different names in Belgium depending on the local language. Speakers of Flemish call him "Sinterklaas" or "St. Niklaas" while he is simply called "St. Nicholas" by speakers of Walloon, which is a variant of French. The festivities start early on December 6th, when St. Nicholas brings a first round of presents to children to celebrate his day.

Families traditionally get together for a big meal on Christmas Eve. There is often a starter course of seafood along with drinks and other appetizers, called "nibbles," followed by a main course of stuffed turkey. Dessert is a Christmas log made from sponge cake layered in cream and covered in chocolate butter cream. This is called "kerststronk" in Flemish and "la bûche de Noël" in Walloon.

Children leave their shoes in front of the fire before going to bed on Christmas Eve, along with carrots for St. Nicholas' reindeer and possibly some snacks for his assistant Zwarte Piet, who is actually the one who is said to climb down the chimney with the presents.