Krakelingen & Tonnekensbrand 2015 on Sunday the 22th of February !
> Photogallery of the visit of U.S.-ambassador Howard Gutman, Krakelingen 2010
> Photoreport Krakelingen 2014 - photographer: Lisa Bilterijst
The city of Grammont/Geraardsbergen (Belgium) celebrates two events on the same day: Krakelingen & Tonnekensbrand. Ever since 1393 city bills have given evidence that the Tonnekensbrand-fire have been organised up till the present by the local authorities.
A parade takes off at the Romance church of Hunnegem. It evokes the city's 25-century-old history starting by the Celts (druids) and ending in contemporary subjects. The dean and the city councillors proceed the parade dressed in historical costumes. About 1000 participants, mostly members of local associations and schools, picture local history, confronting it with local sagas, thus inducing a wide reflection on proper cultural heritage.
To improve this awareness among the public, the parade focuses every year on both the core of the city's history (being the Celts, profane and religious foundation of the city) and one particular aspect. Recent examples of the latter are e.g. contacts of the city with Latin America (by 16th-century Pedro de Gante or 20th-century migration to Vera Paz), the role of women in various aspects of city history, medieval art, local 19th-century industry (e.g. organ manufacturing, lace, cigars...), various local artistic expressions, the input of the neighbouring villages.
The parade dissolves at the bottom of the Oudenberg hill (110 m): there the druids, the dean, the city council and thousands of spectators climb the hill. First the dean blesses the "krakelingen" in the Holy Mary chapel and then he proceeds to a stage where he and the town councillors drink some wine to swallow a tiny living fish from a 16th-century silver goblet.
The next phase of the ceremony is the town-councilors throwing some 10 000 "krakelingen" (locally also called "mastellen"), small donut like sandwiches, into the public. One contains a small official document confirming you win the "golden krakeling", a unique jewel created by a local jeweller.
At 8 p.m. a straw-covered stake ("Tonnekensbrand") is burned on top of the Oudenberg while folk dance sets the atmosphere. At the same time some villages in the surroundings respond to the Tonnekensbrand by lighting a smaller fire. From the Oudenberg hill spectators take a walk down town carrying burning torches to bring light and warmth to the city centre.
The event combines both Christian (e.g. the prominent role of the dean) and pre-Christian elements (fire, living fish, bread, beginning of the spring) likely dating back to Celtic period.
The "krakeling" is a circular bread (10 cm diameter). Its form refers to a cultic bread, symbolizing the cycle of seasons, of life. In fact the event takes place at the end of winter (the second but last Sunday before the first Monday of March).
"Tonnekensbrand" illustrates a well-known tradition of pre-Christian fire festivities and symbolises the end of winter, the return of light and life.
Drinking wine, symbol of brotherhood and joy, with a tiny living fish, symbol of new life, was already described in detail by a local Latin renaissance poet, Joos Schollaert (1599). A charge by an animal rights organisation in 1997 resulted in several trials where different courts (Oudenaarde 01.12.2000, Ghent 30.11.2001, Supreme Court 05.11.2002) sustained the traditional ritual if being restricted to the authorities.
From the early 1800s a folk tale explains the origin of Krakelingen & Tonnekensbrand as the commemoration of a trick intended to resolve a city siege in 1381: desperate inhabitants would have thrown their last bread and herring over the city walls to make the enemy believe they had plenty of food left ... and the enemy would have abandoned the siege. The tale and the historical truth (a quick and dramatic invasion by the enemy) are both shown in the parade. People, though, still go on telling the (far more positive) folk tale.
In 2010 Krakelingen & Tonnekensbrand have been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).
Elke werkdag van 9 tot 12 uur. In de namiddag op afspraak (054 43 72 88).
Toeristisch infokantoor Visit Geraardsbergen (Markt)
Van 1 april tot 30 september
maandag tot vrijdag
9 - 17 uur
zater-, zon- en feestdagen
10 - 17.30 uur
Van 1 oktober tot 31 maart
maandag tot vrijdag
9 - 12 uur en 13.30 - 16 uur
zater-, zon- en feestdagen
10 - 13 uur en 14 - 17 uur