COMMEMORATION OF THE SIEGE OF BASTOGNE
Organised by the Town of Bastogne, the commemoration is a patriotic procession that brings together veterans, brotherhoods, dignitaries, students, Belgian and American military platoons and veterans and includes the laying of two wreaths (at the PATTON and McAULIFFE monuments). The ‘Jet de Noix’ (throwing of the nuts) from the balcony of the Town Hall brings the commemoration to a close.
This Bastogne tradition has two origins. The first goes back more than 150 years when each farm had servants, cowherds, shepherds, etc. These people were contracted verbally for a year. These verbal contracts had the same weight as the written and registered contracts we use today. Servants were, however, fired for minor errors. Labour was abundant at the time. The person, although fired, nonetheless completed his/her year. Eight days before the end of the year, they collected their wages and left with her bindles on their shoulders. They then arrived at the Bastogne fair in this gear. This last fair of the year therefore became a fair at which servants and domestic workers were hired. It was here that the farmers gathered to hire their staff for the next year. When they were re-hired (and so had their wages guaranteed for the next year) they tied a red handkerchief with white dots around their necks over a large blue smock. It was a sign that they had been hired. Given that the next year was sorted financially, workhands took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy themselves. The young men bought the girls cone-shaped sugar loaves (the only confectionery available at the time) and fruit or nuts. As these sugar loaves were very expensive, they preferred to offer fruit or nuts, which consisted mainly of walnuts at the time, to their promised.
The second, better known, although later origin, is linked to an important moment in history. In December 1944, General MCAULIFFE, Commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, was defending the besieged town during the Battle of the Bulge. He famously replied ‘Nuts’ to the Germans when petitioned by them to surrender on 22nd December 1944. Chance had it that General MCAULIFFE’s exclamation of Nuts fell just at the time when, traditionally, Bastogne was celebrating the Walnut Fair before the war. After the war,
folklore and military history came together in this celebration. So, every year in December, during the commemorations of the siege of the town, the Mayor, accompanied
by Belgian and foreign dignitaries, throw nuts to the public from the balcony of the Town Hall.
> Free admission. The departure of the parade is planned at 2.30 pm.