Thursday, October 16, 2008
On January 1st, not one child in Flanders, the Western half of Belgium, escapes reading New Year's Letters to its parents, grandparents, godmother and godfather. These are moments that stay carved in each one's memory: decked out in best clothes, trembling voice, sweating hands, all eyes fixed on the reader.
New Year's Letters are part of a unique Flemish tradition that has been traced back to the 16th Century. During the course of several centuries superb treasures have been created with splendid draftsmanship, fine calligraphy and nostalgic verses. Popular themes recur but these illustrated letters are often also a mirror of their time through layout and topic.
Abundant flower bouquets enhanced with goldleaf and glitter replaced religious images. Snowy landscapes are reminiscent of a Flanders that no longer exists. Fear and poverty during both World Wars are profound in the texts from those periods. During the 60's and 70's creative crafts are introduced. Typical also are the decorations of the Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau. Each New Year's Letter tells a story filled with hope, in each verse hides the dream of a child.
For this book, Nelly Haelterman made a widespread selection out of her collection of more than 7000 New Year's Letters. To learn more or order, visit the English version of her website.