Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 July - a Double Special Day

Today, 11 July, is our wedding anniversary. I was having my breakfast alone in peace at 11.30 am (cos His Majesty has been escorted to church for mass) when I heard my doorbell ring. Strange, usually nobody would call us or visit us on a sunday unless it is pre-arranged. I opened the door and someone handed me a rose. A yellow rose. Luckily my dutch is good enough to understand what he said. The guy was from the N-VA political party, and he was handing out yellow roses to houses with the yellow flemish lion flag. It was really a pleasant surprise. I was really caught by surprise and I forgot to tell him that actually we have been hanging the flemish lion flag, not just today, but everyday for many years.

Here is the thank-you note from them, with a message which reads as follows. Congratulations! On 11 July, the flemish national day, you choose to hang the lion flag : the symbol of 6 million flemish people, regardless of background, origin and political belief. The N-VA Zoersel hereby thanks you with a small token of appreciation and promises to remain working hard for a better Flanders.

11 July is the "officiële feestdag van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap", in short it is the flemish national day. NOT the belgian national day though, which falls on 21 July. Why do flemish people celebrate the flemish national day rather than the belgian national day then? If you ask me, I can't explain to you in just one page. 11 July marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Golden Spurs on 11 July 1302 when an army of flemish people fought the french troops near Kortrijk in Flanders. The french were trying to subdue the county of Flanders which was at that time part of the french kingdom but resisted french policies.

There are historical reasons for flemish nationalism. The flemish people have always wanted to be independent, to split from Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium. The flemish (dutch-speaking) and the walloons (french-speaking) have been at loggerheads for years, they can't see eye to eye on practically everything. The difference between the north and the south, stems largely from language, cultural differences and econonic power. It is not exaggerating to say that the flemish identify themselves more with dutch people whereas the walloons feel more at ease with french people.

During the elections in June 2010, the N-VA led by Bart de Wever, won the majority in Flanders and Elio di Rupo from the socialistic PS won the majority in Wallonia. It is like water and fire, the 2 parties are from opposite ends of the spectrum, one is extreme right and the other is extreme left. The N-VA is for the independence of Flanders while the PS is against it. It remains to be seen how the flemish nationalists and the walloon socialists can form a coalition government to rule Belgium, without strangling each other. Luckily the parliament sessions in Belgium are still quite sober, you don't see people throwing things or beating up each other, like what the people in the Taiwan parliament always do. :)  

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