Self-made flowers made of crepe paper are exchanged for a handful of shells in countless shops on Belgian beaches in August. The tradition is known only to us and is widely believed to date back to the interbellum. The flower game was declared an intangible Flemish heritage in 2021. And for the first time, a Belgian championship has now been held around it.
Paper flowers adorned religious parades in particular from the late 19th century. This was also the period when the first flower parades went out, brightly coloured floats with real and crepe flowers. Possibly this is where the custom originated. Certainly from the democratisation of coastal tourism in the mid-1930s, the beach became the ideal place to organise all kinds of summer fun for the little ones, such as sand jumping, building sand castles, sack races ... and who knows: making beach flowers. Or should we simply look for the explanation in the zeal of a commercially minded person who wanted to teach children some mercantile skills in a playful and active way from an early age?
Because the process of bartering follows basic economic rules: the game of supply and demand, price negotiations, profit. Although not money, but specific shells in fine condition are usually the prevailing currency. Each seaside resort has its own etiquette in this regard.
Real estate developer Compagnie Het Zoute paid tribute to this iconic beach game during the Zoute Beach Flower Festival with the very first Belgian championship.