CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium — In Chièvres, crossage is a must-see event! Held on Feb. 22, 2023, it will take place in the heart of the city.
This year’s edition is especially noteworthy, since on Jan. 11 crossage was recognized as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
The recognition is something very important for the city of Chièvres, and is the first time the Wallonia-Brussels Federation has recognized a traditional game to such a level.
If you are a crossage beginner, the most important rule to learn is the two words: “attention chôlette”!
During the event, participants play on the street with a wooden mallet called a “rabot” and a wooden ball called a "chôlette". Teams compete against each other as they hit the chôlette with their rabot to reach beer kegs in as few hits as possible.
Players shout "chôlette" before they strike the ball to warn other players that the ball is in play. They are also required to announce a number of hits to touch the keg.
If you want to attend crossage, remember that several players can hit a ball at the same time in different directions. Watch your surroundings to avoid being hit!
The sport can be compared to croquet or golf.
The rabots are handmade with a very specific technique. Players can customize their rabot as well as the wooden ball. There are no rules, however it is recommended to soak the rabots and chôlettes in water overnight and let them dry before decorating. This helps prevent the wood from cracking while playing the game.
In Chièvres, participants play “crossage à l’tonne” (tonne meaning keg) in the streets. It is one of the different forms of crossage. The sport has evolved over the years, and there are several explanations about its appearance.
The history of crossage dates back to the Middle Ages. Initially, this game was for nobility in the early 15th century and was played within the city fortifications.
In the 18th century, participants had to play in the fields as the game was causing too much damage inside the city. The game came eventually returned to the city’s streets when it began being played on Ash Wednesday.
Initially reserved only for men, crossage is now practiced by everyone.
Many players participate in the annual event first and foremost to have fun with their friends. Participants try to hit kegs in front of local bars, including temporary bars set up for the day. At the end of the game, the losing team must buy beers for the winning team.
Drinking beer may seem contradictory, because Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Christian fasting season of Lent. However, at the time non-Christians wanted to play, party and drink during Ash Wednesday to challenge the Church. The date was set as a provocation and a way of reacting to the obligation of fast and abstinence.
On Feb. 22, the city of Chièvres will be closed to all traffic until around 5 p.m. and no parking is allowed since the game is played on the streets.
The city of Chièvres loves to see our community take part to this tradition. If you have not already registered, you can still sign up through the USAG Benelux Public Affairs Office by phone at DSN 597-5421/Commercial +32 (0)68.25.5421 or email until Feb. 15.
If you miss this deadline, you will still be able to register through the Tourist Office in Chièvres, which recently moved to Rue de Saint-Ghislain 16 (“Maison de Cité”).
Tickets are required to participate in the event. Pre-sale tickets cost €8 and include insurance in case there is an accident during the event. The entrance fee the day of the event will be €10 at the city hall.
Stay tuned and follow U.S. Army Garrison Benelux on Facebook for more crossage updates. We will publish a map with all the keg locations as soon it becomes available.
If you need a rabot (wooden mallet) and chôlette (wooden ball), please call DSN 597-5250 or civilian +32 (0)68.25.5250 or +32 (0)496.87.6938.