Every 7 years, on the Monday after the first Our Lady Virga procession, free pea soup is handed out on the square in front of the Virga Jesse Basilica. This is done under the watchful gaze of the city giant Don Christoph, also known as the Langeman of Hasselt. This is the culmination of the folk tradition of the septennial Our Lady Virga Jesse festival. So make a note of August 2017 in your diary, if you want to see this custom for yourself.
History of the tradition of Hasselt pea soup
- According to legend, this custom originates from when a Spanish nobleman in the 16th century saved the city from starvation by distributing pea soup among the population.
- In reality this was to do with a legacy from the Zonhoven citizen Hendrik Dries. Since 1508 pea soup has been distributed among the poor on the occasion of the annual procession.
- In the course of the 17th century this annual custom became a tradition that was practiced every 7 years.