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Bruges Christmas market. Photo supplied

Bruges ditches name of Christmas market because it offends ‘other religions’

The Christmas market in the Belgian city of Bruges, will no longer be called by its name because it "offends" other religious communities. The new official name will be the "Winter market". Not everyone is happy about the change.

Published: October 30, 2018, 9:35 am

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    Bruges is not the only big city that has given the Christmas market a new name. Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Hasselt have all opted for variations with the word “winter”: from “Winterland” to “Winter fun”.

    The Catholic city of Leuven is keeping the word Christmas market, although all end of year events will be called “Wintertime” events.

    The organisers changed the name from “Christmas” so as not to offend people of “other faiths” they maintain. But no one dared to mention Islam by name however.

    Opponents say it is “unacceptable that the link with Christmas is neglected”.

    There will be a nativity scene in Bruges this year, a city littered with medieval architecture, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 115.6m , making it the world’s second highest brick construction. But there will be no Christmas lights, which will be removed to provide space for winter lighting.

    The opposition wants to know what is actually wrong with a Christmas market. “Unbelievable and incomprehensible”, said Senator Pol Van Den Driessche, member of the New Flemish Alliance, a mainstream Flemish conservative political party.

    “From now on we can no longer speak of the ‘Christmas market’ in Bruges, but of the ‘winter market’. This is not only a ridiculous decision, it also goes against our individuality. Bruges has a very beautiful and old tradition in terms of Christmas. Whether you are religious or not, it is part of our culture. I do not want to give in to this foolish form of ‘tolerance’. ”

    Van Den Driessche told VTM News: “I’m fed up with these sort of discussions. There has just been the ‘Zwarte Piet’ discussion. Let’s end this right away.” He added that the Christmas story “is ingrained” in local and Western European culture. “Let’s keep it that way.”

    But Piet Vanderyse from the Bruges trading center, defended the name change. “With the name ‘winter market’ we want to be more neutral.” He said they did not have anything “against the Catholic Christmas”.

    According to the trade center, the main aim is to better promote the activities that have little to do with Christmas, such as the ice rink. But most activities are mainly focused on Christmas items. “If we use the word Christmas, it is associated with the Catholic faith,” explained one of the organisers, although it is intended to still offer “Christmas-related products”.

    Vanderyse tried to downplay the criticism. “It is simply an all-encompassing name. People certainly do not have to look for anything more,” he said, suggesting that there may be concerns of shoppers boycotting the event.

    Last year, the Islamic State jihadis issued a disturbing warning that attacks could be carried out in Christmas markets. The disturbing messages were intercepted by BlackOps Cyber, an internet intelligence agency.

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