Drinking Live Fish In Wine Under Fire

Likely ban on drinking fish in wine Credit: Geraardsbergen Council

WHILST we expats may think Spain has some unusual festival; Belgium isn’t far behind but one faces a possible shutdown in 2024.

For hundreds of years live fish have been drunk in a cup of wine during festivities called the Krakelingenfeest or Pretzel Feast and the Tonnekensbrand or the Barrel Burning in the town of Geraardsbergen.

The double feast contains both Christian and pre-Christian elements (fire, live fish, bread, time). The pre-Christian elements presumably date from the Celtic period.

The pretzel is a ring-shaped bun of 10 cm in diameter. This shape symbolizes the cycle of the seasons or of life and normally takes place in March to coincide with Lent.

Rather unusually considering the drinking of a live fish, the festivity has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage event since 2010.

New laws however are being proposed which would make it illegal to kill animals of any kind unless out of necessity and not for fun or because of tradition.

Belgium politicians say that they want to move with the times and recognise that if a practice is cruel and causes harm to other living creatures then it should not be allowed.

Many argue that cock fighting and bear baiting were a tradition but they and similar events involving cruelty to animals have been phased out for obvious reasons so it does seem unlikely that the burgers of Geraardsbergen will see their event curtailed in the future.

Animal rights groups have tried to have the fish drinking banned in the past, but courts have ruled in favour of the events.

Perhaps some form of compromise will be possible with the use of fish formed from bread or vegetables or even drinking of wine that the fish have previously swum in (although getting the fish drunk may in itself be considered cruel).

Thousands enjoy these annual festivals, especially as one lucky person wins a solid gold bagel each year so it is unlikely that a ban on drinking the fish will see the end of the festivals.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing newsdesk@euroweeklynews.com, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page www.facebook.com/EuroWeeklyNews


    • Naimah Yianni

      19 July 2023 • 16:45

      So you cant drink them but you can kill them, cook them and eat them? Seems like a load of nonsence. Not that i fancy drinking fish

    Comments are closed.