If you thought February was just about Saint Valentine’s, then you haven’t been in Luxembourg long enough. Learn more about the other saint, the magical experience of Liichtmëssdag and of course, it’s the start of Carnival season!
Liichtmëssdag: 2 February
Liichtmëssdag (Candlemas Day), on the 2nd of February, is the day in Luxembourg where you may see neighbourhood children going from house to house in small groups with lanterns singing the Léiwer Härgottsblieschen song in order to receive sweet treats or coins, rather than the bacon or peas that the song lyrics suggest.
The tradition of Liichtmëssdag is based on the ancient Celtic feast of Imbolc, originally held on the 1st of February, where farmers would parade with torches to their fields and pray to Brigitta, the Goddess of Fertility and Rengegung (meaning cleansing), to purify the fields in order to provide a prosperous crop.
In the past the lanterns, or “candle lights”, which were said to bring light into the houses after a long dark winter, were wooden torches. Today, children hold colourful paper “lampions” that they make themselves (and for safety reasons are filled with electric candles) whilst they sing either the popular version of the “Léiwer Härgottsblieschen” song or, depending on the village, a local version of the song to earn their treat.
Léiwer Härgottsbliesche – Lyrics (You can listen to it here)Léiwer Härgottsblieschen,- dear Holy BlasiusGitt ons Speck an Ierbessen – give us bacon and peasEe Pond, zwee Pond, – one pound, two poundDat anert Joer da gitt der gesond, – the next year you will be healthyDa gitt der gesond. – you will be healthyLoosst déi jonk Leit liewen let the young people liveLoosst déi al Leit stierwen, let the old people dieKommt der net bal, – don’t you come soonD’Féiss ginn ons kal. – our feet will become coldKommt Der net gläich,- don’t you come soonDa gi mer op d’Schläich. – We will “tiptoe”Kommt der net geschwënn, – don’t you come soonD’Féiss ginn ons dënn. – the feet will become thinKommt Der net gewëss, – you don’t come for certainDa kritt Der e Schouss voll Nëss. – you get a lap full of nuts (Source: Das Luxemburgische und sein Schrifttum, Nik Welter, 1929)
St Blaise: 3 February
St Blaise is a Catholic saint who’s legendary status is apparently said to come from saving a child who was choking on a fish-bone. On the 3rd of February, Luxembourgers remember this patron saint with the Blessing of the Throat: the words “May God at the intercession of St. Blaise preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil” are spoken and candles are crossed at the throats or over the heads of mass goers. As the patron saint of physicians, sick cattle, wax chandlers and wool-combers he is often portrayed with a metal comb and a tall candle. As Luxembourg is originally a nation of farmers, St Blaise seems to be a worthy saint for us to remember, as our forefathers did.
St Valentine’s Day: 14 February
February 14th has always been a significant day for couples and in Luxembourg it is even more special due to a couple dear to our hearts; the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess. On the 14th of February 1981 the then Prince Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume of Luxembourg married the Cuban born María Teresa Mestre y Batista-Falla at the Kathedral Notre-Dame. They were officially married 10 days earlier in a civil ceremony, but St Valentine’s Day was the day the public got a glimpse of the couple in all their glory. And glorious they were, a beautiful couple and a delightful love match. Luxembourgers remember them fondly, standing on the balcony of the Grand Ducal Palace, in their royal finery. On Valentine’s Day why don’t you raise a glass for their 35th anniversary?
Fuesend – Luxembourg Carnival (throughout February and March)*
In Luxembourg when people refer to carnival, it is not a single event but a whole period of time during which the country is awash with masked balls (Fuesbaler) and processions through the streets. Revellers dress in costume for these occasions creating massive street parties. Some of the larger processions, known as Kavalkaden attract up to 25, 000 people who join in the carnival fun. Costumes are for sale in local supermarkets and often Luxembourgers make great preparation for these events with elaborate well-thought-out costumes.
*The largest festival is usually held in Diekirch, but as we all know this year with Covid still showing its ugly head, the 54th edition has been moved to May 8th. Many other events have been cancelled and for others we are still awaiting confirmation.. Here’s to hoping that in 2023 the carnival season will be back in full swing!