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Culture beat December 19-January 5

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17:13 19/12/2014
Festive fun for all the family: craft markets, fireworks, theatre and film. Happy holidays everyone!

Not only is the Grand‘Place the focal point of the city’s Christmas festivities, tonight you have a chance to spin around its Christmas tree in a public waltz. From 19.45, the music starts and couples are invited to step onto the cobbles and dance away. There’ll be two opportunities to dance in the evening with the evening sound and light show providing a restful interlude.

In the countdown to Christmas, shops around the country will be open on Sunday afternoon. Alternative places to pick up last-minute gifts are the Bip (Brussels Info Point) Christmas Village in Place Royale until Sunday evening. You’ll find artisan crafts, mulled wine and entertainment including ice sculpture and fire-breathing acts (free entrance). A Christmas market at Atelier des Tanneurs over the weekend is selling fashion, jewellery, décor, recycled crafts and ethical beauty products. There’s even a stand where you can sample the trending alternative protein source, insects. It’s suitably named Bugs in Mugs! Another source of previously-loved items is the flea market at 28 Rue de Laeken on Saturday, 10.00-20.00. In addition to a the large clothes collection, you’ll find accessories, toys and gourmet sweet and savoury treats. Free entrance.

City-centre theatre house La Bellone opens its doors over the festive period for the second edition of its seasonal mix of contemporary art, music and performance. Until January 3, La Bellonne fait le mur! invites visitors to explore the theme of hidden treasures via a guided tour of its myriad artistic disciplines. Reservations are only necessary for the children’s workshops.

New Year’s Eve in Brussels is now centred on Place de Brouckère after the city cancelled the traditional Mont des Arts firework display due to safety concerns. The party starts at 23.00 with DJs, sound and light shows and a clock counting down to a pyrotechnic show at the stroke of midnight The city says it will be a “magical and modern spectacle”. A new pedestrian plan is already in place in the city centre, so avoid traffic congestion and use public transport. For non-residents, the entertainment package Happy Brussels is one stress-free option. Organised by visit.brussels, it proposes a pass for €45 providing access to a large number of clubs and parties as well as top city tourist attractions (Atomium, Cinéma Galeries, guided tours), shop discounts and free drinks in some of Brussels’ more offbeat bars.

The annual Festival Noël au Théâtre offers families a respite from the usual Christmas diet of DVDs and Disney films, with 23 shows from December 26 to 30. Its big appeal is the wide range of ages the programme caters for and a variety of entertainment, from music, dance and puppetry. Multiple venues include the Théâtre National, Centre Culturel Jacques Franck, Botanique and Théâtre Marni, among others. It’s difficult to pick out highlights, but La Petite Filles aux Allumettes, Cigale et Fourmi and Gulfstream promise some magical moments.

The Be Film Festival at Bozar and Cinematek, from December 26 to 30, celebrates Belgian cinema. Over the past nine years it has supported a host of breakout filmmakers including Bouli Lanners (Eldorado, Les Géants). This tenth anniversary edition continues a rich tradition, presenting the best local productions of the year, including the Dardenne brothers’ latest award-winner Deux jours, une nuit. The programme also gives a sneak peak of the gems to come in 2015.

Looking ahead to the New Year, there’s a holiday premiere at Bozar on January 3 in the double screening of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her by American director Ned Benson (The Westerner). The two films provide accounts of the same story, one from the point of view of James McAvoy (Conor) and the other, Jessica Chastain (Eleanor). The previously happily married couple become strangers in the wake of a tragedy. Benson explores the couple’s attempt to reclaim their former lives and love.

Written by Sarah Crew