Today is the last day of school holidays in Belgium. It could also have been the last day of quarantine in Belgium, but it isn’t – a few days ago it has been decided to extend quarantine until May 3. However, from Saturday, April 18, garden and DIY stores were allowed to reopen – a joy for all who wanted to spend this weekend gardening and doing some renovation works.
Also, church services are possible again, but only for broadcasting purposes, and the number of people onsite (including technicians) must not exceed ten. Funerals and weddings are also permitted in an intimate circle. For weddings, the total number of attendees must not exceed 5 including brides, bridegrooms, and civil servants. This means it is impossible for parents from both sides to be present at their children’s wedding. For funerals, the maximum number of attendees has been set to 15. If you wonder why it is fifteen for the funeral and only five for the wedding, the official answer is that unlike a funeral, a wedding can be postponed until better times. Almost all funeral agencies now provide video streaming from the ceremony. And weddings in Ghent Town Hall have streamed even before the quarantine since 2014 already.
Plans to stop the quarantine have not yet been voiced, but there was some news concerning the coming summer – all mass events in Belgium are banned at least until August 31. A ‘mass event’ according to Health Minister De Block is ‘an event where many people gather in a confined space and where it is physically impossible to maintain a distance’. In any case, the Rock Werchter, Graspop, Pukkelpop, Dour and (for the first time since the First World War!) the Ghent Festival will not take place.
For Ghent, the cancellation of the Ghent Festival means a loss of more than 50 million Euros according to the most conservative estimates (the University of Leuven calculated the income of our city from the Ghent Festival back in 2003, so 50 million is an underestimation). But the Festival takes place every year, so it is not so dramatic to skip one edition. The organizers of the van Eyck year 2020 project (all events under the motto OMG! Van Eyck was here) were less fortunate. Fortunately, they were creative and… just extended van Eyck’s year for six additional months – until June 24, 2021! The date appears to be strange, but only at first glance: June 24 is St John the Baptist’s feast day. John the Baptist was the patron saint not only of Jan van Eyck himself but also of the city of Ghent and its main church, for which Jan Van Eyck painted the Ghent altar (it is now called St Bavo’s Cathedral). So, Van Eyck rules Ghent until June 24, 2021.
The only irreparable loss is the closure of Van Eyck’s magnificent exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. Fortunately, the museum’s management organized a short (half an hour) virtual tour available on YouTube:
I do recommend it very much!
And the handsome man in the picture is our town crier Jean-Pierre Van de Perre, the ideal person to announce the latest news!