The break with the past triggered a heated debate across northern Belgium. In some quarters the Nativity was embraced as a symbol of our cultural heritage, while some were accused of making political hay from this incident.
Holsbeek mayor Hans Eyssen of the Christian democrat party was keen to cross his T's: "A number of residents - and let me be clear they were not Muslims as reported here and there - they were Flemings of no faith - had complained to the municipal secretary pointing out that the Nativity had no place in the neutral setting of the municipal hall. We believe that it is first and foremost a Christmas decoration. We never put the Nativity there in order to proselytise."
A protest urging residents to turn up at the municipal council meeting with a Nativity of their own was called off.