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The beginning of new tradition

This weekend, despite the pending move, I was determined to go to a Christmas market with my family

Lately I have been overwhelmed by the feeling that Philippe and I get so caught up in the day to day running of our lives that we simply don’t put much effort into building and maintaining family traditions. I’ve decided unilaterally that this is going to change. Traditions are extremely important and our identity as a family is built on them.

One thing I’ve decided that I can do is plan regular, seasonal outings with my family. We can afford to set aside even just one day per month to leave the house and simply spend some time together. It’s time to stop just talking about it and actually make this idea happen.

This would seem to be a rather easy proposition but you don’t understand the extent of the introversion in my household! Most of the family outings I’ve proposed to Philippe and the boys over the past couple of years have been rejected for a variety of the following reasons:

  • It’s too far away.
  • It’s going to be way too crowded.
  • There won’t be anything to eat there.
  • It would require a lot of preparation and time investment.
  • It will be too expensive.
  • It will be too awkward or uncomfortable for too many of us.
  • The weather’s too bad / too nice ( basically: there’s weather)
  • I just didn’t push hard enough through their initial reluctance to leave their comfy burrow

This weekend, I was determined to go to a Christmas market with Phil and Liliana. I researched all of the Christmas markets which were taking place anywhere within a half hour drive from home and I landed upon a very promising solution.

As you may know, we’re moving this week. We finally reached a point this last summer where we decided to let go of the house we’ve lived in for the last decade and start fresh in a brand new home that we’ve chosen together.

As fate would have it, there was a Christmas market scheduled for this weekend just down the hill from our new home, in the sheltered courtyard of our new city hall in Wanze. Amazingly, it seemed to actually be the sort of thing that I could get my pet introvert to leave the house for!

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  • It was just down the hill from the new house
  • It wasn’t in a big city so it was unlikely to be too crowded or touristy
  • I checked the website and they had a lot of good food vendors lined up
  • We don’t even need to bring Liliana’s stroller anymore. Heck we even left her diaper bag in the car.
  • It was free entry and Sunday lunchtime was happy hour with special deals all over
  • It was sheltered from the weather due to being in the courtyard of the city hall so even the wind wouldn’t be able to get us
  • I scheduled a visit to the Christmas market for this Saturday after work but the weather was atrocious and we decided to simply enjoy a comfortable evening in. When Phil suggested simply not going, I very nearly cried. He realized that this clearly wasn’t just about some excuse to go drink Peket

Next week I have to perform a little play at the work Christmas party with one of my colleagues and we didn’t get the time to do a dress rehearsal yesterday at work. He, his mother and I have all become quite chummy after working together for a year and a half so I decided to roll everything up into one plan for the day since Phil and I really didn’t have a whole day to spend at the market (how is there STILL so much left to put into boxes?!).

We met my colleague at the school for a dress rehearsal at 11 and as soon as we’d finished, we all trooped down to Wanze for what I was hoping would be a very nice lunch together.

When we easily found a parking space near the market, I started to get as excited as a little kid. I’ve loved these charming things ever since we attended my first one shortly after I arrived for that very first Christmas together eleven years ago. I want Liliana’s childhood to be full of memories of these sorts of outings with her parents and other people who love her.

The market today was everything I hoped for and more! I think it was by and far the BEST Christmas market experience I’ve ever had. Even Philippe had a wonderful time and THAT is a testament unto itself!

Now, I didn’t take any photos, sorry to say. I have the best excuse of all time, however. I was so caught up in the moment, enjoying every second with my love, our daughter and some wonderful friends that I simply didn’t even think about pulling out my phone for any reason.

You’re just going to have to be satisfied with descriptions.

As we entered the courtyard, even the little bit of wind which had accompanied us from the car was forced to leave us alone. It was a Sunday at noon and there were empty tables all around.

We walked the perimeter of the market to see what kind of food was on offer. Nearly all of the stands were observing Happy Hour until 1pm which meant that if we ordered something to eat we would get a drink for free!

There were over a dozen food vendors and the smells in the air were incredible.

I’ve saved the fliers of the market so that I can make sure we try out the different vendors at some later date but today we all were drawn to the smell of the delicioous tartiflette from A l’arrêt Gourmand.

Tartiflette is AMAZING, you guys. Philippe has a wonderful recipe which I’ll totally share with you someday but think: roasted potatoes, onions, bits of bacon, melted cheese (Philippe insists that I must specify that it’s a very specific kind of cheese so please don’t go trying to make this with Velveeta) and a splash of white wine, all served steaming hot. Honestly, I was lucky Lilly let me eat ANY of it as she simply stood next to me repeating “Liliana tatifette!” until my plate was empty.

Having a cute toddler along on outings is always good for something. Today her pigtails and smiles convinced the woman at Rolls Ice to offer her a free serving of laquement flavoured ice cream.

Ok now you’re wondering what laquement is. Do you know what stroopwafels are? A stroopwafel is two thin wafers smooshed together with a brown sugar caremel syrup filling. They’re addicting just as they are. That’s not enough for people in Liège province, however. Oh no! See, here in our province they make a syrup from all the extra pears and apples at the end of harvest season. Now when they want to make laquement they take this syrup and mix it with some beer and god only knows what else and they DRENCH those stroopwafels in the mixture. It’s sticky and sweet and amazing. The ice cream with laquement syrup was delicious and every single member of our group ate one. That’s not exactly true, of my friends gave in and accepted a second when the server told him it’d be wasteful if he allowed the extra portion to melt in the open air. Peer pressure, what can I say?

Apparently the Rolls Ice food truck is going to be setting up shop in Marchin for most of the next year. I think I know where we’re going to be getting our cool treats once the hot weather comes!

After we’d all eaten our fill, we made our way into the Creator’s Market. It was quite a bit smaller than I’d anticipated but there was plenty to see and buy.

I bought a few little treasures from a very warm and friendly artisan who makes Christmas baubles and hand-blown glass decorations but whose business card marks her as a psychotherapist first and foremost. We had a brief chat and I’m certainly going to be looking her up as I settle into my new environment. She seems so willing to help me navigate the new neighborhood.

Unfortunately, (fortunately?) I didn’t have enough cash on me to buy everything that my heart desired, however I am going to be shopping from a few of the creators on my own. I didn’t explore all of the vendors today even though it was a smallish hall. There just wasn’t enough time for me to stand around chatting with all of them before Lily started to really need her nap-time.

Au Fil de mes aiguilles

Céline Malisoux from Au Fil de Mes Aiguilles makes beautiful zero-waste accessories for women and children as well as snack bags, food wraps, all of the beautiful reusable objects which I would love to make for myself but never have the time to actually create.

Fanny Legrain from Brin de Causette is an artisanal soap-maker. She offers workshops from time to time in our area where she teaches people how to make their own soap and gentle beauty products. I think I know where we’re going to be getting all kinds of soap for our home and holiday gifts in the future. They smelled delicious and I was a bit jealous that my friend bought two bars and I didn’t have enough cash left over to get any for myself!

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Finally, a graphic designer was in the room. Aurélie Warin of Saperlotte was selling a variety of badges and pins but the thing which most drew my attention was her pins for kids! Phil and I gathered together the coins from the bottoms of our wallets and ended up 35 cents short for a badge for Liliana. Ms. Warin was generous enough to accept our haggle and now Lilly’s coat is decked out with a beautiful pin with her parents’ phone numbers on it in case she ever wanders away from us on one of our outings! Let’s be honest…she’s going to wander away, she’s too much of a free spirit to stay attached to our feet, heck we had to chase her down at least twice just in the couple of hours which we spent at the market today.

Our friends went home as we chased down the sleepy toddler to put her jacket back on and then we came home for nap-time and boxes. (Nap-time never happened but that’s a whole ‘nother story!)

We’ve got so much work left to do in order to be ready to leave this house and set ourselves up in our new home. In exactly one week we will have all of our belongings moved and we’ll have cleaned this house from top to bottom to leave it ready for the new owners.

I am so excited about all the possibilities which the future may bring and I’m so very, very happy that we managed to carve out a couple of hours today to spend time chatting and eating with good friends while creating new memories and new traditions for our family.

By Misty Rae

I'm a 37 year old American who lives in Belgium. I spend the majority of my time being a wife, mother and homemaker. During the Belgian school year I teach a immersion English classes to children through the school Kids&Us in Hannut and I also volunteer as a teacher for the Marchin Cultural Center's weekly English Conversation Classes.

My hobbies include medieval reenactment, bobbin lace-making, creating delicious treats in the kitchen as well as creating various beautiful objects to fill my home.

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