Mostly everyone in Flanders knows that the first Sunday after the Easter Holidays is the annual Heritage Day (Erfgoeddag). But if you’ve recently arrived in Flanders from a different planet, here’s a short guide to what it’s all about.
What is Heritage Day?
It’s an opportunity for everyone in Flanders to interact with the cultural heritage in their daily environment in a contemporary, qualitative and meaningful manner. It’s a chance for every one of us to discover cultural heritage as something valuable and relevant.
So that’s castles and museums?
It certainly does include castle and museums, but much more. In fact Heritage Day involves 515 heritage organisations, such as museums, archives, churches, documentation centres, collecting libraries, local heritage centres, folk groups, cultural clubs, public libraries, youth organisations, academies, universities and schools. Together they are opening their doors to the public at 680 activities throughout Flanders and Brussels.
How does Heritage Day differ from Open Monument Day?
Heritage Day focuses both on the movable (objects) and the intangible (stories, traditional techniques and skills) and thus differs from Open Monument Day which concentrates on architecture and other immovable heritage.
Isn’t Heritage Day mainly for older, nostalgic people?
Not at all. Heritage Day brings history alive for children. They can do more than just read about the past; they are able to visit places, examine ancient artefacts, smell old documents, listen to music from the past, even taste food that their ancestors used to eat. The programme contains hundreds of family-oriented events.
What can we learn from our heritage?
Heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies. These are the things that make us who we are. We learn from our past in order to achieve greater influence over our future. Heritage Day helps us understand who and what we are to be, and helps us learn what to avoid. Everyday decision-making around the world is constantly based on what came before us.
What’s this year’s theme?
The fifteenth edition has the theme Inherit (Erf), and examines the relationship between ‘heritage’ and ‘inherit’, with an emphasis on personal relationships and experiences.
Where should I start?
The total programme for the day can be found on the Heritage Day website. It’s divided into provinces so you can easily check out what’s happening near you. If you’re overwhelmed with choice, check out this article for some of my recommendations: Heritage Day 2015