Medieval City Bruges Rebrands Christmas Market as ‘Inclusive’ New ‘Winter Festivities’

Bruges Market

Organisers of the Christmas Market in Bruges have defended their decision to rebrand the medieval city’s popular event as a ‘Winter Market’ after outcry on social media called the move an attack on Belgian traditions and culture.

Bruges Trading Centre chairman, Piet Vanderyse, said organisers were surprised by the “commotion” over their decision to change the attraction’s name to one which is “more neutral”.

“Hundreds of thousands of tourists come here to enjoy the atmosphere. We do not want to bombard anyone,” he told VTM News, adding that the market’s name change was “not even new”.

Organisers wanted a name that was more “inclusive” of “other winter activities such as the ice sculptures and the ice rink”, Vanderyse said, stressing the group “has nothing against the Catholic Christmas” and that items sold at the event’s stores will still be “Christmas-related”.

Despite official listings promising the historic city will see “a totally renewed concept of the winter market” while the event runs between November 23 and New Year’s Day, the Trading Centre boss insisted the change had no meaning other than “simply [to give] an all-encompassing name” to the festivities.

Pol Van Den Driessche, a senator from the conservative New Flemish Alliance (N-VA),  slammed the rebrand as “incomprehensible”, telling local media it “goes against” the nation’s traditions and identity.

“Christmas traditions in Bruges are beautiful and historic, as well as being a part of our culture whether one is religious or not,” he said, asserting it was wrong for the city to “give in to some foolish form of ‘tolerance’”.

“There is no reason to throw traditions overboard, and certainly not under the guise of neutrality. Do you know one Muslim who refuses to visit a Christmas market out of fear that he will get Catholic values and norms rammed through the throat? We have to stop putting ourselves in the corner,” the Bruges politician said.

Many Belgians who responded to the story on social media agreed with Van Den Driessche’s sentiments regarding the rebranding, with users expressing concern over perceived ‘Islamisation’, and posting that they feared their country’s traditions were slowly being eroded as a result of political correctness.

Other individuals, however, complained there were much more pressing issues for politicians to address, while a Twitter user lashing out at VTM News for covering the development, telling the broadcaster, “I have to say honestly, you spread lies, hate and division [across] a population that has already been divided by politicians.”

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