Downsized Christmas in Brussels

Last year I featured some stories about when our young family spent several holidays on Brussels.  My husband was working in Belgium,  he needed to be there for the Y2K change over and also the Euro conversion.  That meant the children had not our typical over sized United States holiday. We usually would have a large tree, too many presents, and visits to and from relatives.

The family not only survived, we thrived, with our simplified celebration in the city.


We still have Napoleon for our holiday tree today. He was about the right size for an ornament, and we were desperate. We didn’t want to buy a lot as we would have to ship it home later. Napoleon made the cut to come home.

My husband did his best, our small apartment meant we didn’t have room for a real tree, so my husband found a small fiber optic one.  It changed colors.  It was the sort of tacky tree I would never have allowed in our New England home.  The girls agreed that fiber optic oranges, yellows and pinks flashing across our tree with too few ornaments was way cooler than our typical traditional one.  I enjoyed the easy set up and take down.  We found the holiday decor of Brussels more than made up for our small attempts at home.  Why go to the bother of decorating when right outside your door were the most beautiful city decorations possible?


We rather wish the statue had been ours to take home. She was one of the family, gladly doing her part for the holidays and as a coat rack.

Also our apartment came furnished.  We enjoyed the odd mix or antiques and mismatched chairs.  The girls loved also loved that the apartment came with a  statue.  Still, you can’t just have a statue be a statue in a small apartment.  Much like most work out equipment, the statue served as a coat and clothing rack.  My husband usually would come home and place his coat and hat on the statue.  However for the holiday season, the girls insisted the statue wear a holiday hat.  This didn’t stop us from decorating her with our coats.


Winter in Brussels meant no snow, and a light jacket was usually enough. The nearby park was the playground, and feeding the pigeons and ducks leftover stale cereal was a fun activity.

When we got back to the States, I downsized to a nice table top size tree.  I went even smaller a few  years ago to one that fits in our bay window.  My retired neighbors still freeze and spend over a week putting up lights on anything in the yard that doesn’t move. They then putting up fake reindeer and a sleigh that actually do move.

The entire project I find well worth watching from my window, usually while I am sipping a cup of hot chocolate.  Their tenacity and joy in over the top decoration means I can’t even begin to compete.  I hang a couple of wreaths, including my favorite featuring vintage snow shoes, and feel I’ve done more than enough.  With all the epilepsy inducing flashing coming from next door, no one will be even able to notice I’ve only taken about an hour on my outdoor decor.

This year's tree, Napoleon still proudly decorates.

This year’s tree, Napoleon still proudly decorates.

Brussels is where the family learned to be an audience that appreciates all the hard work and effort of others, while doing just enough to make ourselves happy.  I still wish we had that fiber optic tree though.

Categories: Family, Travel

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