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Kids haggling over price of beach flowers now official cultural heritage

17:30 14/01/2021

The practice of children ‘selling’ crepe paper flowers on Belgian beaches is now officially recognised heritage. It has been added to the Flemish Inventory of Cultural Heritage.

All along the Belgian coast, children can be seen setting up ‘shops’ of flowers they made themselves (usually with the help of parents). They offer to sell them to passers-by – both kids and adults – with shells acting as currency.

This can lead to quite a bit of haggling, with the nicest flowers considered worthy of many shells. The kind of shells generally demanded depends on which part of the coast a flower shop finds itself, with simple banded wedge shells (Donax vittatus) often quoted, since they are easy to find.

Sometimes the whole family gets involved, with parents and grandparents making flowers in the background, while their kids build a makeshift counter out of sand to do business.

The tradition is unique to Belgium, not being seen along other coastlines in Europe or the world. No one is quite sure how the practice started, but it has been handed down among generations since the 1920s.

“Children learn a lot from this process,” says Triene Vandenbussche of Coast Heritage. “They are not only practicing sales techniques and setting prices but also learning to communicate with children who speak other languages. So the selling of beach flowers is not only a tradition that binds generations, it also brings kids from different backgrounds together.”

Photo courtesy Kusterfgoedcel

Written by Lisa Bradshaw