Leuven age set ritual repertoire


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Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2009 by Heritage Cell Leuven

The Leuven age set ritual repertoire is a rite of passage in a man’s life centring on the ten years leading up to his fiftieth birthday. For men living in or around Leuven, Belgium, a journey of socio-cultural and philanthropic activities and ceremonies commences at the age of forty with the forming of an age set and culminates at the age of fifty on Abraham Day, with a celebration in the city’s central park around the statue of the prophet Abraham. Each age set chooses its own medal, flag and uniform, and is fostered by a ‘godfather’, who belongs to an age set formed ten years before. The members celebrate and embrace life throughout the decade and beyond. An age set only disappears when its last member passes away. The age sets are characterized by intergenerational values of openness, friendship, solidarity and commitment to their age set and to the city. Differences of descent, rank or social status are of no importance, neither are political, philosophical or religious convictions. The only conditions for participation are to be a man and to be born in the same year. Women however increasingly take part as godmothers and supporters. The ritual stimulates identity and a sense of continuity for both the city and the members, and has become a strong part of Leuven’s urban culture. Today, fifty-four age sets exist.