National feeling

Today is our national holiday in Belgium. I had to think about the difference in celebrations and attitude towards a national holiday and national symbols across countries.

In Belgium we do not seem to care as much about it as elsewhere. Only 2% of the population would know the words of our national anthem (I don't!...despite Rotary's efforts to teach us our national anthem before going on exchange, in order to give a good impression abroad ). You do see some houses that hang the national flag, our tri-color (black/yellow/red) outside, but 10 days ago there were more Flemish lions hanging out when it was our flemish regional holiday. For most of us it's simply a day off, a day that all stores are closed and that probably there are fireworks tonight in a lot of towns. The king makes his annual speech on tv and the army parades through Brussels, but that is truly tooo boring to watch though. In Brussels there are quite a few activities that does attract a big crowd, but regionally there is not much happening.

That does not mean though that we are not proud of our country though. I think most of us still love our country, not taking some seperatists into account, ...but we simply cannot add much value in those symbols. I think we'll all proudly tell foreigners to come and visit our beautiful historical cities...We are pissed off when North-Americans think that French fries actually originate in France (Grrrrr....haha what a joke when they called them Freedom fries in order to piss off France....hilarious). We all know we have definately the best beers and best chocolate in the world. There is simply no doubt about that. And we are all huge fans of Tom Boonen (who has already won twice in the Tour and will likely gain the green jersey) and Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin and our other sport stars. We are proud that the head of the Olympic committe is a Belgian, etc etc... But we don't wish each other a "nice Belgian holiday" today.
In Canada people all seem to know their national flower, their provinces flower, the flags are all over and they must carry a pin with their flag when they are abroad, .... On the first of July I got via msn and Facebook several "happy Canada Day " wishes.
The same happened on the 4th of July from American friends. I remember very well a post that Sari has written over at the Geekinside.blogspot.com. She describes the feeling and emotions when the flag flew and the anthem was song at a boys baseball game. Those are situations that we cannot relate to I suppose, and yet I think we miss them somehow. We mock the Dutch when they all go orange nuts in big sports tournaments and dress up orange and decorate houses and offices orange etc... We mock them, but personally I also think it's cool to some degree. It wouldn't hurt if the Belgians just got a little bit more bitten by a national feeling and showing it off.

I remember a day that all the Rotary exchange students of the district 5080 were together in Colville, WA and we had to present ouselves to the other rotarians in a flag parade. While waiting, we were simply goofing around, chasing each other and running around with our flags. All of a sudden a Rotarian came in and he completely freaked out at us when he saw us because apparently part of our Belgian flag had been dragging on the floor while running around. We had not noticed, we had not done it intentionally....but it wasn't such a big deal for us either. We simply thought "ooops, it'll get dirty, we'd better be a bit careful". To that man, it meant a lot more, but we did not understand the fuss.

3 weeks ago my aunt and uncle celebrated their golden anniversary and they were celebrated at their townhall. During a part of the ceremony the Belgian national anthem was played. With a shock I realised it was the first time in my life that I had to listen to our national anthem! Can you believe that? I am sure the Belgians can believe me and the foreigners don't. I mean I've heard it often before on tv: before any speech made by the Kind, when a Belgian wins a medal at the Olympics, before our national soccer team plays, .... But never life so that I am actually asked to stand up, stand respectfully still and listen. ...it was weird! I truly felt awkward.

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