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Holand, Hjalmar Rued, 1872-1963 / Wisconsin's Belgian community : an account of the early events in the Belgian settlement in northeastern Wisconsin with particular reference to the Belgians in Door County

Chapter VII: Belgian characteristics and customs,   pp. [81]-97 PDF (4.0 MB)

Page 82

To the Belgian these festive gatherings of a Sunday morn-
ing are only a sunny spot in the passing week, but to the
casual visitor of the austere North they seem to be festivals
of superlative good fellowship and hilarity,
         "Where resounds the Belgian tongue,
         Where Belgian hymns and songs are sung,
         This is the land, the land of lands,
         Where vows bind less than clasped hands."
    The long years of imaginary prohibition have, however,
greatly decreased the attendance at these pre-mass and
post-mass reunions-not that the liquor was unobtainable,
but because the Belgians as thrifty people objected to pay
the high prices and big profits which prohibition granted
to the bootleggers.
    But even prohibition (anathematized by all Belgians)
cannot put a damper on the great festival of the year -
the Kirmess. This festival comes at the end of the harvest
in the beginning of September, which time was the great
annual pay day of the common people of rural Belgium.
Then they found themselves possessed of their share of the
grain bundles of the big landlord's crop for which they had
toiled all summer. This brief hour of prosperity was there-
fore celebrated with a rousing festival called the Kirmess,
and their children in the new world have faithfully followed
their example.
     Kirmess lasts for three days during each week for six
successive weeks, a different parish center being the head-
quarters each in turn, and makes necessary a vast amount
of cooking and baking. Not only are the neighbors invited
to mutual banquets, but friends from far away are invited
and usually come to partake of Belgian hospitality. It was
probably the demands of Kirmess preparations that called

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