It’s Thanksgiving! A time when many of us find ourselves sharing this uniquely North American holiday with family and friends from other parts of the world. We’re all agreed that it’s a cherished tradition that involves getting together with family and friends to feast on favorites and give thanks for all that we have.
The rest? Hmm, well, something about turkey… and European migrants with black hats and buckled shoes meeting Native Americans… and cranberries… and football??
Thanksgiving as we know it comes to us after more than a century of being shaped by popular culture and the popular imagination. Today, the holiday is much more about what it means to us personally, and the chance to connect with family and friends, and reflect on what we value most in life.
Historically, things get a bit fuzzier. Many of us were raised on myths and half-truths about the holiday, including ideas about what might have been served or worn at a First Thanksgiving meal. (Hint- no silver shoe buckles or paper feathers.)
This time of year is thus a great opportunity to connect back with the history of North America, including its role as a haven from religious persecution, and the stories of the Wampanoag tribe and other indigenous peoples who have lived there for tens of thousands of years.
Fortunately there are great resources to help us dig deeper into this part of our national heritage. For those who’d like to learn more about some of the real history behind the American Thanksgiving holiday, including how it came to be a national holiday, the US Library of Congress has a helpful Thanksgiving Teachers' Guide with facts, dates and other primary source materials available online.
National Geographic Kids has a children's guide to the story of the Plymouth colonists' relationships with members of the Wampanoag tribe, which sets the stage for the tale of the First Thanksgiving.
To explore the stories of past and contemporary Native American peoples and cultures, visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian's Native Knowledge 360 Resource.
And finally, for a Native perspective on the holiday, see Dennis Zotigh's article for the Smithsonian magazine blog, "Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?"
We hope that you'll enjoy learning more about the rich history and culture of North America. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!
As of May 22, the missing states (designated in white on the map above) are as follows:
New JerseyNorth Carolina
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. During 2018, AWCB members and friends will reflect on more than a century of American service in Belgium.
From the first American “doughboys” who arrived to defend freedom in 1917, to the thousands of GIs who answered the call of World War II…. from diplomats preserving peace to teachers keeping alive history’s lessons… from artists nurturing cross-cultural understanding to entrepreneurs fostering economic cooperation… We salute the role that they have all played in cementing not just 100 years of Americo-Belgian friendship, but a more just and peaceful world.
AWCB members, friends and the public will have many opportunities this year to honor the legacy of those who came before us, and to support future generations in sharing the best of the American and Belgian spirits. One such opportunity is by supporting our HOPE partner, the American Overseas Memorial Day Association in Belgium (AOMDA).
The AOMDA endeavors to keep alive the memory of the more than 13,000 American service members laid to rest in Belgium. On April 20, the AWCB hosted AOMDA President Dr. Jerry Sheridan, who described the association’s mission and its work to preserve the legacy of those who served. Not only does AOMDA coordinate the Memorial Day ceremonies in each of Belgium’s three American military cemeteries, as well as for personnel buried in isolated graves, but just as vitally, the organization educates youth about the values of freedom and democracy for which these soldiers gave their lives.
This May, we at the AWCB will continue our long-standing tradition of sending Memorial Day wreaths to each of Belgium’s three American military cemeteries: Flanders Field, Henri-Chapelle, and the Ardennes. A representative from the AWCB Board of Directors will also attend each ceremony on behalf of the club. These moving events are an unforgettable experience for all involved. We encourage all AWCB members and friends of any nationality to join us in attending a ceremony, as well as to be part of our tribute by making a donation to the AWCB Wreath Fund.
On June 16, we will recognize 100 years of American service in Belgium at the AWCB Founders’ Ball. Celebrating the successes of the past and the promise of the future, this special event will feature NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller as our keynote speaker. All proceeds will go to the AWCB HOPE program, which partners with local charities to spread the best of the American spirit in Belgium. Volunteer opportunities are open to those wanting to place their special signature on this event!
Living in Belgium has many advantages- including being a part of a long history of American-Belgian friendship and cooperation. While we continue to enjoy the culture, the architecture, the cuisine, and more- let’s all take the opportunity to reflect on our role in honoring and preserving this important legacy.
Special Openings in Belgium- Brussels Edition
Brussels is full of wonders- and even more so for those in the know! Quite a few of the city’s magnificent sights are available only a few times a year (or less). But not to worry about blinking and missing out. We’ve put together a short guide to upcoming seasonal happenings in the Brussels metro area.
Floralia Brussels- 6 April- 6 May, 2018, Castle of Groot-Bijgaarden. This gorgeous spring flower show covers the castle’s 14 hectare park and greenhouses with 1 million flowering bulbs. Against the backdrop of a 17th-century Flemish Renaissance castle, visitors will see fields of colorful hyacinths and daffodils, plus nearly 400 varieties of tulips. Single-entry tickets are 14 Euros for adults; multiple entry passes are also available. The castle is located on the west side of the city, off the Brussels Ring (R0), and near the Groot-Bijgaarden stop on STIB/MVIB Tram 19. More info available HERE.
The Royal Greenhouses at Laeken (Serres Royales de Laeken)- Open 13 April-4 May, 2018. Part of the royal château at Laeken, the royal greenhouses were built in 1886-87 for King Léopold II. (Fun fact- they were designed by Alphonse Balat, mentor of famed art nouveau architect Victor Horta.) The complex features over a dozen greenhouses, including a domed winter garden and a stunning array of both rare and common flowers and plants from around the world. There is a nominal admission fee for adults. The greenhouses can be reached on foot via the main gates of the chateau, off of Ave du Parc Royal. Free parking is often available on the opposite side of Ave du Parc Royal, near the monument to Léopold I, by turning onto Ave de la Dynastie. The closest transit stop is the Serres Royales stop on the STIB/ MVIB Bus 53. More info and photos available HERE. AWCB members can also join our organized outing- check the Members-Only section of our calendar for details.
Hallerbos (Blue Forest): Estimated Peak in Mid-Late April, 2018. Known as the “Blue Forest”, Hallerbos is famous for the beautiful carpet of bluebells that bloom there for a few weeks every spring. Peak bloom usually occurs around mid-late April, but Mother Nature always has the final word on the timing! The forest is located off the Brussels Ring (R0), near Halle. Admission is free. Parking and picnic tables are available on-site. More info, plus hiking/walking maps, available HERE.
Royal Palace of Brussels: Open July 22, 2018- September 2, 2018. Right in the heart of Brussels, the Royal Palace functions as the administrative offices of the Belgian Monarchy. Its impressive rooms also host special events and receptions throughout the year. The annual opening to the public coincides with the royal family’s holidays, and usually features special exhibitions. Entry is free, with a guide booklet available for a nominal fee. Click HERE for info and photos.
Open Churches Days: June 2-3, 2018. Churches in Brussels and throughout Belgium will participate in this year’s Open Churches weekend by creating welcoming experiences for visitors, including through guided tours, exhibitions and concerts. The 2018 theme is “the many faces of heritage”- telling the human stories behind the buildings and behind the artwork within them. Info on participating churches and events available HERE.
Flower Carpet: 16-19 August, 2018. Every two years, Brussels covers its Grande Place with a spectacular “carpet” of fresh flowers. No tickets are required to view the carpet up close, but visitors wanting a birds’-eye view can purchase advance tickets to the balcony of City Hall. Keep up to date on ticket sales HERE.
Royal Observatory “Portes Ouvertes”: 29-30 September, 2018. Belgium’s Royal Observatory, in collaboration with the Royal Meterological Institute and the Royal Aeronomy Institute, will open its doors to the public from noon-6pm on Satruday, September 29 and from 10 am-6pm on Sunday, September 30. Air, space and weather-related activities will be available for the whole family. Visitors may check the institution’s web site closer to the date for more details.
Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.
— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres
March 8 is International Women’s Day.
On this day, we honor those who have come before us in the global movement for women’s rights and equality, and reflect on the progress still to be made.
We commemorate the struggles and achievements of those individuals- both celebrated and nameless- who fought for women to have a voice in society.
At the same time, we acknowledge the challenges still facing women and girls worldwide. These include barriers to education and economic self-determination, gender-based violence and harassment, and uneven progress with respect to the rights of minority, disabled and socioeconomically disadvantaged women.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme celebrates the activists working to empower women worldwide, and to change deep-seated social practices of sexual harassment, gender-based violence and discrimination.
The American Women’s Club of Brussels is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day by re-affirming our commitment to empowering women in Belgium and beyond. We invite AWCB members, friends and members of the public alike to join us for a series of special women-focused events in March:
On Thursday, March 8, the AWCB welcomes artist Fab Rideti as she presents “Multiple of One”, an exploration of the multifaceted nature of women in society. What social masks do we wear? Who are we really, as women and as individuals? We will follow this program with a charity lunch in support of projects empowering women. All are welcome- Register now!
On Friday, March 16, we come together to support “Hope Beyond Displacement”, a community-based project to educate, train and empower refugee women and girls in the Middle East. This initiative had the honor of being selected as the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Abroad (FAWCO) target project for 2017-19. Catering for this special fundraising lunch will be provided by Our House, a local NGO offering community-based integration services and employment to refugees and asylum seekers in Belgium. We will also welcome a special guest speaker to discuss the issue of violence against women in Belgium. All are welcome- Register here!
On Tuesday, March 20, all are welcome as we take part in the fight against breast cancer. We’ll hand-craft beautiful, heart-shaped pillows for use by women who are recovering from breast surgery in Belgian hospitals. All skill levels are welcome, and no previous sewing experience is required. Please email email@example.com for more information or to register.
During the month of March, we will also be accepting in-kind donations of bedding, linens, dishes and cutlery for a local shelter for women who have escaped domestic violence. As many of the residents have escaped violent homes with little other than their clothing, these donations will help them in their transition from the shelter to independent housing.
For questions or to volunteer to help with any of these initiatives, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belgian beer is famous the world over, and for good reason. This compact country of 11 million people produces over 1600 different types of beers, from world-renown varieties to obscure craft brews. UNESCO in 2016 added Belgian beer culture to its “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” recognizing the beverage’s rich history and its importance to Belgian life and culture. Belgium can even claim to St. Arnold, the patron saint of brewers, who was born in Flanders and whose attributed miracles include curing plague victims with a specially-blessed batch of local beer. That’s right, folks- Belgian beer is quite simply miraculous.
For those of us committed to… ahem, cultural research… it’s hard to know where to start. There are Trappist beers and abbey beers, lambics and guezes, tripels and saisons, and a whole host of others. Each individual brew has its own special glass, origin story, serving conditions and recommended food pairings. While a fully comprehensive introduction is the stuff of which university courses are made, the AWCB can at least help you get going.
On February 24, we welcome back Dr. Murray Frick for the 9th annual AWCB Belgian Beer and History Night. Dr. Frick will present a multimedia talk on the history and varieties of beer in Belgium, as well as the reasons behind their different serving glass shapes. He’ll then be on hand as we work our way through an independent tasting of approximately 8 different brews. As the lineup changes from year to year, even returning “alumni” can expect to find something new. And- wait for it- all participants will receive their very own beer glass to take home.
All adults are welcome, so grab some friends and register to attend! All in the name of research, of course.
The AWCB strives to share the best of the American spirit in Belgium and beyond. Our HOPE Program (Humanitarian Outreach Program and Events) is a big part of this, allowing us to partner with and learn from local organizations working on behalf of vulnerable populations. These partnerships have contributed much to the club and its members, while also giving back to the community that we all now call home. Our club’s affiliation with the global Federation of American Women’s Clubs (FAWCO) likewise allows us to connect with like-minded women around the world, who are also working hand-in-hand with their communities on a local and global level.
In November and December, AWCB members joined together to participate in HOPE’s annual Angel Tree program for refugee families at the Alsemberg Red Cross and children at La Cité Joyeuse orphanage. Together, we provided over 60 gifts to brighten the holiday season. The Alsemberg center was gracious enough to include a group of AWCB members and their children in their St. Nicolas holiday party, where we met resident families and watched the gifts being handed out by St. Nicolas himself! All enjoyed coming together in community around a special Belgian tradition. The club, the Red Cross and La Cité Joyeuse thank all those who provided gifts and monetary donations to make the project a success.
In 2018, the AWCB will also continue its tradition of spending time with elderly and disabled residents of a local nursing home, many of whom have no families of their own. These visits combine a game of BINGO with prizes, refreshments, great quality time, and local language conversation. Interested members and friends should check the AWCB website for upcoming sessions.
Also in 2018, the AWCB gets a new outreach partner -our FAWCO sister club, the American Women’s Club of Anwerp. Specifically, we’ll join them in the Caring Hearts project to provide hand-crafted pillows to women recovering from breast cancer surgery. Members and friends will come together at the clubhouse and in other locations to create the special, heart-shaped pillows, which will then be given to university Hospitals around Belgium. Local demand for the pillows has been high since the Antwerp club began creating them in 2008, and we anticipate an enthusiastic response from survivors, family members and medical professionals.
The AWCB’s first Caring Hearts pillow-making session will take place on Monday, 22 January, with the help of members of the Antwerp club. We hope to continue these sessions quarterly or monthly. If you are looking for new ways to connect with fellow AWCB members and/or with your local community, please consider joining us at one of our upcoming sessions. All levels of skill and experience are welcome- we’ll have need for cutters and stuffers, as well as seamstresses and managers. As an extra incentive, we’ll celebrate the completion of the first AWCB Caring Hearts session with a lunch out at Ancho Mexican Kitchen in Waterloo. Please register to let us know how many helpers to anticipate!
No matter your skills, time or expertise- the AWCB has a way for you to be involved in the community. Please contact us and consult our web site to find a match!
Question: What happens when a group of creative, organized, hard-working, fun and community-minded women come together? Answer: 2017 at the AWCB.
And what a year it’s been! AWCB members and friends have enjoyed parties, day trips, art exhibitions, planning meetings, coffees, service projects, luncheons, performances, fundraisers and more. They conducted a successful all-clubhouse cleanup, continued the Moving Forward process, welcomed new members, and celebrated special milestones! All in addition to completing the legal legwork to place the clubhouse on the market, and running a successful Christmas Market. Whew!
On December 15, the AWCB family enjoyed some well-deserved relaxation at the annual Christmas and Holiday Lunch. Forty members and friends came together in our main meeting room, where traditional holiday décor complemented the bright colors of Maria Andrade's paintings. Friends old and new enjoyed conversation over a 3-course meal from Traiteur Charles-Henry. AWCB’s own chorale, the Women of Note, performed a selection of holiday favorites and helped guests to find their own inner music with a light-hearted sing-along. Rumor has it that there may even have been some dancing!
The coming year will be an historic one for the club, as we move out of our current location and make important decisions about our future. If 2017 is any indication, the AWCB spirit is more than up to the challenge.
'Tis the season to spread the American spirit!
One way we are doing that is by helping Nativitas, a Soup kitchen in downtown Brussels that provides hot meals on site and distributes food packages weekly, to those in need. The food we collect will be distributed to families in need who are able to take the food home and prepare their own meals. Our donations enable them to have a more balanced diet than usual during the holiday season!
We are collecting non-perishable items, such as:
Please bring items by the Clubhouse - we will be collecting items through December 15th! Thanks for your support!
Are you celebrating Thanksgiving in Brussels? Let us help!
The simplest way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Brussels is to join us on Sunday November 26! If you are looking for a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, the Hard Rock Cafe may have what you are looking for!
If you have your heart set on a home cooked meal, the first step is finding a turkey. Picard offers stuffed turkeys and chapons (castrated roosters - don't knock it until you try it!) ready to reheat. They also offer a pumpkin puree for your pumpkin pie, diced pumpkin if roasting is your thing, and some lovely fall soups that would complement any Thanksgiving table.
If you are more of a DIY spirit, Carrefour Hypermarche and Delhaize both have turkey available. They are most abundant in the communes with large American populations, namely Overijse and Waterloo, but when you cannot find a whole turkey, you are likely to find turkey breasts and legs which can make a fine meal as well. Stonemanor also has fresh whole turkeys available.
If you aren't up for cooking a whole turkey or if your oven can not accommodate a turkey, check with your local butcher, as they will often order one and cook it for you.
Ocean Spray Cranberries are available at Delhaize and Carrefour Hypermarche. These can be easily transformed into a deliciously simple cranberry sauce. If the ridges from the can are an essential part of your Thanksgiving experience, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce is available on Amazon.fr.
Pumpkin puree may be harder to come by (particularly if you don't have a Picard nearby) but Colruyt has plenty of pumpkins left if you are up for making your own pumpkin puree.
For the cornbread, polenta is a decent substitute for cornmeal (just use a scant measurement if not going by weight as it is more finely ground) and what is Thanksgiving without cornbread?
What do you do for Thanksgiving?