In some parts of Belgium, tradition has it that St. Nicholas arrives by boat from Spain, and delivers gifts on the evening of December 5.
“However, since we know that you have no time to lose, and that you need every hour to prepare gifts for each child, we have decided to make an exception,” the minister wrote, noting that the 17-day boat trip from Spain would count as “more than enough of a quarantine” in this case.
Belgium has now recorded more than half a million cases of Covid-19, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, while Spain became the fourth European country to surpass 40,000 coronavirus deaths earlier this week.
The minister also added that St. Nicholas would be exempt from the country’s curfew, but warned him to maintain social distancing and wear a mask when necessary as he delivered presents.
Vandenbroucke also used the letter to pay homage to Belgian children, who, he said, had “been particularly brave this year.”
“Indeed, it is not easy every day: at school, everything has changed; at the moment, they can no longer see their friends, they can no longer indulge in their favorite hobbies. Really, really, it’s not cheerful for them. Not to mention that they can’t even go and be cuddled by grandpa and grandma to be consoled.
“But still, they hold on, dear St. Nicholas. Not only to protect themselves, but above all to protect others. During these two weeks of vacation, moms and dads are doing their best to take care of them even more, but this year they deserve your visit more than ever. Every child is a hero, and for once, you don’t need to check in your big, wise notebook,” he wrote.
CNN’s Pierre Bairin contributed reporting.