The events are examples of Unesco's "intangible heritage" - events and practices rather than sites and buildings - from around the world. In Flanders, the list already includes the Ommegang giants of Dendermonde, the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges and the Ros Beiaard procession, also in Dendermonde. All heritage recognitions but the Holy Blood procession take place in East Flanders.
Aalst's carnival hardly needs any introduction. The event takes place every year during the carnival period, with the biggest celebrations happening on the days just before Ash Wednesday. (This year, that's 6-8 March.)
But for Aalstenaars, it's a year-round occupation. The procession of floats, many of them representing current events, politicians and media figures, attracts tens of thousands of Belgians, while local groups compete for the title of Carnival prince, a post which places the winner, for local people, on a par with Barack Obama or Nicolas Sarkozy.
"The 600-year-old ritual, drawing up to 100,000 spectators, is a collective effort of all social classes and a symbol of the town's identity in the region," Unesco's citation reads. "Constantly recreated by new generations, the ancient carnival's collective laughter and slightly subversive atmosphere celebrate the unity of Aalst."
The Houtem Jaarmarkt (annual market) takes place in Sint- Lievens-Houtem, just 15 kilometres southwest of Aalst, on 11 and 12 November and is Belgium's largest and last open-air market for cattle and pure-bred horses. Dealers parade their prize livestock in front of other dealers, farmers, judges and visitors. Selling takes place according to time-honoured tradition, with a handclap marking a sale and a handshake the promise to pay. The market also has an international dimension, with one country or region being a guest each year.
"The Houtem annual market is not something drummed up 30 or 40 years ago," explained Herman De Croo, former minister and speaker of the federal parliament. "It is authentic."
Unesco's statement: "The fair and market have a huge impact on the local community, with private houses turned into public venues where one can enjoy music, drinks and food. For these two days the whole village is transformed into one open, welcoming space."
The Krakelingenfeest and the Tonnekensbrand in Geraardsbergen are centuries-old festivities and the high points of the town's municipal life. The Tonnekensbrand dates back to at least 1393, when it was already described as an ongoing tradition.
Both events take place on the last Sunday in February. The feast has pagan origins, linked to the end of winter and the renewal of spring. The first part involves a procession of church and city dignitaries and about 800 extras dressed in a variety of historical costumes, followed by "druids" who carry jars containing live fish, and others who carry the krakelingen, a sort of soft dough confection.
When the procession reaches the highest point of the town, the Oudenberg, the dean of the local Hunnegem church blesses the krakelingen, and then he and the city dignitaries take it in turns to drink wine containing the fish from a 16th century silver goblet. Thousands of krakelingen are then thrown to the crowd, one of them containing a slip of paper signifying the holder is the winner of a design created by a local jeweller.
The Tonnekesbrand takes place later in the day, amid a festive atmosphere of music and folk dancing. The name of the feast means "barrel burning", and, indeed, a symbolic barrel is set alight on top of the Oudenberg. Surrounding villages often respond by lighting their own beacons, and the people of Geraardsbergen light torches from the flames, which they then carry in procession back to the centre.
According to the city, the two events commemorate a siege of 1381: "Hopeless inhabitants threw their last bread and herring over the city walls to make the enemy believe they had plenty of food...and the enemy left." In fact, the enemy had no trouble taking over the city, but the folk tale persists.
"The festive ritual yields a strong sense of continuity and historical awareness for its participants, evoking historical events and legends passed on from generation to generation," Unesco said.