King Filip pays tribute to Fabiola in Christmas speech


During his Christmas address, King Filip called on citizens to join together and look at the world through new, more hopeful eyes, as well as paying tribute to his late aunt

Christmas round-up

People should join together to resist descending into resignation in times of crisis, and take inspiration from the many manifestations of “positive forces at work”, according to a plea from King Filip in his Christmas message to the nation, which was broadcast on Christmas Eve.

The King began with a personal tribute to his aunt, the late Queen Fabiola, whose funeral earlier this month in Brussels took as its theme the power of hope. “She possessed the gift,” he said, “to bring hope to all she met, with a few simple words and gestures. Without reservation she strove for those in difficulty. We are grateful to her for all she did and for who she was.”

The late queen's message was of greater importance, the king said, “in a time all too often marked by fear – fear for the future, fear of failure, fear of the stranger. Fear can be so overwhelming that people become paralysed, shut away in their own isolation, their hope for the future taken from them.”

The remedy, he suggested, is to look at the world through new eyes, more hopeful and more optimistic. “A positive approach releases more energy and creativity, not only within ourselves but also in those around us. I'm thinking of the many people the Queen and I have met, who have found their way to a new start out of adversity and failure. An attitude like that leads to commitment. It is also a way of seeing the world that truly inspires others.”

Flanders at its best

Elsewhere, the annual Music for Life charity appeal, broadcasting on Studio Brussel this year from the provincial domain De Schorre near Boom in Antwerp province, announced it had raised €2.7 million on behalf of 870 projects. “Over the last week we have seen and heard Flanders at her very best,” said network manager Jan Van Biesen.

Over the last week we have seen and heard Flanders at her very best

- Jan Van Biesen, Studio Brussel

On Christmas Eve, 30.7 million text messages were sent via the three main Belgian telecommunications operators – Proximus, Mobistar and Base. That is fewer than the 33 million sent last year. Data traffic was up, suggesting people are now sending their Christmas wishes via the internet, and smartphone apps like Viber and What'sApp. 

As is normal for the time of year, few babies were born, as induced births and planned C-sections are not carried out around Christmas time. However, the Sint Lucas hospital, part of Ghent University, did welcome a Christmas baby, Dillion Mensah, born by natural means at 23.45 on Christmas Eve, a day and a half after his due date. “We had to spend our Christmas here, but later we'll go home for a special party,” said father Anthony, who with wife Tema now has five children.

Small businesses said they were “relatively satisfied” with sales leading up to Christmas, when fashion retailers did particularly well with the sale of accessories and T-shirts to be offered as presents, according to Unizo, the organisation that represents the self-employed. Sales as a whole were as good as last year, or up to 2% better.

At De Roma theatre in Borgerhout in Antwerp, 600 homeless and disadvantaged people were treated to a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings and presents for the children, served up by 50 volunteers.

Meanwhile, 275 passengers who had spent Christmas Eve stranded on board a JetAir flight from Mexico managed to make it home in the early hours of Christmas Day – 36 hours later than scheduled. Goodwill to all men was not exactly the order of the day: “We were left to our own devices,” one passenger told VTM News. “We're not angry, just really badly disappointed.” The Dreamliner aircraft was unable to take off because of a technical problem. A replacement aircraft was brought in, but the company had no crew.

Police marked Christmas Day with the announcement of the start of a week without fines. The action, held in protest at new rules on retirement ages and pensions, repeats one that took place at the end of September; during the protest, minor offences such as failing to wear a seatbelt, phoning while driving and illegal parking will go unpunished. Serious offences including speeding and drink-driving will continue to be policed as usual. Unions said the fine-free week would continue until New Year's Day. Motorists are warned, however, that the amnesty does not extend to Antwerp, where the law will be applied as normal.

Photo: King Filip gives his Christmas message. © Belga