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Meyboom celebrations to take place in Brussels on Monday
A centuries-old tradition, one recognised as an expression of intangible heritage by Unesco, will once again be celebrated in Brussels on Monday when the Meyboom will be erected on the corner of the Rue des Sables and the Rue du Marais.
The planting of the Meyboom is a tradition going back to 1213, when Brussels scored a major victory over its rival Leuven. While there is still some discussion, even after all this time, about the origin of the dispute - several legends range from a rocky marriage to a tax on beer – what is clear is that Brussels came out on top over its nearby city rival in a fight at the capital’s gates and planted a tree in celebration.
For Jean-Marc Godeau, secretary of the Companions of Saint-Laurent, it is very important to continue with this tradition. "It is to commemorate an event that dates back to 1213,” he said. “The Louvanists came to challenge the inhabitants of Brussels at the gates of the city and the guild and crossbowmen of Saint-Laurent repulsed them. This is what we commemorate with this tradition of planting the tree."
A procession, which is traditionally composed of the Companions of Saint-Laurent, the Buumdroegers – those who carry the tree, and the Giant Bearers, will march from 13.00. Tradition calls for the tree to be planted by 17.00.
"The rule is strict,” said Godeau. “If we do it afterwards or if we do not manage to plant it, at that time, the privilege of planting the tree goes to our opponents of 1213, the Louvanists."
The tree comes from the Sonian Forest where the Buumdroegers will select it and cut it to the ideal size. It is then taken on a tour of Brussels before being presented on the Grand Place at 14.30. It is then taken to its planting spot, erected and the festivities – which usually go on until dawn – can commence.
Last year, the festivities could only take place with 200 people, made up of the members of the different companies, in attendance. But this year, the Meyboom festival is the first major event authorised by the City of Brussels with more than 1,500 people.
"It's exceptional for us," said Godeau. "Usually, we party with more than 3,000 people. We shall see how the people of Brussels behave. We expect a renewed joy after these lockdowns. We were conditioned to live without celebration, without events, without joy for a year and a half.
"I think it's time to be able to come out and recreate this atmosphere of joy. And the Meyboom is truly the symbol of joy. But we expect the public to respect everyone by wearing a mask and observing social distancing rules."