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Pandemic fails to stop planting of 712th Brussels Meyboom
Coronavirus cancelled most events in Brussels for months on end, but the pandemic could not put paid to the city's oldest folkloric tradition this Sunday - the 712th annual planting of the Meyboom.
Every year since 1308, on 9 August, to celebrate a victory by Brussels over Leuven, a beech tree from the Sonian Forest has been planted on the corner of the Rue des Sables and the Rue du Marais. The tradition is that it must be planted before 17.00 or the right to plant the tree defaults to Leuven.
Normally, the event, which is now on Unesco's intangible cultural heritage list, involves a 13m beech tree with a minimum weight of 600kg and a score of "bûûmdroegers" to carry it, a dozen folkloric giants, marching bands, a big parade from the forest to Schaerbeek to the city centre including the Grand-Place and a salute to the Manneken Pis, dense crowds of spectators and lots of beer.
None of that fits into the pandemic regulations.
"The mayor insisted that we do something so that Brussels could keep its prerogative," one of the Bûûmdroegers, Daniel, told The Bulletin. "The committee came up with the bare minimum: a small tree, a short parade, just to make sure the 712th year remained intact."
He added: "Even though there are so many fewer participants this year, we still had a good time."
The tree was successfully planted around 15.00 and, in the absence of an audience, the event was live-streamed.
There are several stories behind Brussels’ tradition of the planting of the Meyboom. One legend says it took place after a short battle between Brussels and Leuven about taxes placed on beer.
In 1939, a group of Leuvenites stole the tree and the Brussels Bûûmdroegers (tree carriers) had to go cut down another one to plant in time, and during the Nazi occupation the ceremony had to be done "en stoemelings" (in a hidden manner), but never once in 712 years has the tree not been planted on time.