Celebrations on the main square in Ghent, Source: City of Ghent

Ghent hands out 28,000 free drinks to citizens during the New Year’s Drink

Ghent hands out 28,000 free drinks to citizens during the New Year’s Drink

The toasting event is an annual tradition for the municipality, held again after a two-year hiatus

On 15 January, 11,000 people in Ghent, Belgium, got together around city hall to wish each other all the best in the new year in what is known as the nieuwjaarsdrink (New Year’s Drink).

The contemporary tradition started at turn of the century and it features local authorities sharing free drinks with citizens, while the Mayor makes a speech about the year to come.

Another staple of the New Year’s Drink is the festival portion of the programme, including live music. The event had to take a two-year hiatus, however, due to the pandemic. As with many annual events around the world, which collected dust in the past years, it came back to cheering applause from people who are just happy to finally be out of the house.

Sharing the joy with citizens

Around 11,000 Ghent citizens showed up to celebrate the event in front of City Hall. During the New Year’s Drinks, local authorities handed out a total of 28,000 free drinks including mulled wine, fruit juice and even soup. Moreover, the stage featured an 18-piece Ghent brass band called the Brazzmatazz.

According to an official statement, Mayor Mathias De Clerq gave a speech at the event highlighting the turbulent times of 2022 but also pointing to the resilience of Ghent’s citizens. Moreover, he praised the local citizen-led organisations contributing to society with solidarity.   

This year local authorities opened the door to accessibility in their communication, both with amplification for people with hearing aids and an interpreter, providing sign language translations in real-time. In front of the stage, local authorities also set up a special area for people with disabilities.



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