By Marc Gettemans
St Hubertus Celebrations in Belgium:
First, it is necessary to provide some history of Saint Hubert, don’t worry I will be very brief because all concerns about Saint Hubert can be found on “Wikipedia”, I limit myself to the most important ones: Hubertus (or Huibrecht) (655-727) was the first bishop of Liege. On the 30th of September 825 his remains were transferred from Liege to the Abbey of Andage. Later on, Andage changed its name into Saint-Hubert and its basilica which was founded near the abbey was also named the Basilica of St-Hubert.
Saint Hubert also has his place and name day on the calendar on November 3rd and has since then become the patron saint of hunters and shooters, the protector of horses and dogs and he is also worshiped for rabies.
In Belgium, some villages have been named after the holy Hubertus as St Huibrechts-Lille and St Huibrechts-Hern. After St Sebastian, St-Hubert is the most frequently known patron of shooters associations. The Hubertus Logo, the deer with cross, can be found in hunting-related products such as the well-known hunter drink “Jägermeister”. On numerous hunting magazines one can observe the Hubertus logo on the cover page, it also affected our official hunting magazine of which the first edition was published in September 1909 (see scan of the cover page). In Belgium with its 10 provinces, there are yearly Hubertus celebrations in each province starting around October. These celebrations are organized by the provincial hunting associations or hunter guilds. Because most Belgians still have Catholic roots, every celebration starts with a Holy Mass and in this Mass it is common practice to hear the sound of hunting horns. At the end of the ceremony the priest blesses the Hubertus Bread which is traditionally eaten by those present. Small pieces of the bread are fed to the animals to protect them against rabies.
Afterwards it’s time to bless all animals. This usually takes place at the portal of the church where all owners with their animals are in turn blessed by the priest. To end the Catholic ceremony there is the blessing of the game which can be bought afterwards by those interested. In our neighbor countries (Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) there are Hubertus celebrations with hunting horns performing at the best of their abilities. Every year, on the church square of the Basilica of Saint-Hubert, hunting horns associations compete among themselves to deliver the best performance, it is simply breath-taking when you stand amongst the crowd and the sound of the hunting horns puts you in a totally different world.