National Day 2017 and 2018
National Day in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is celebrated every 23rd of June and is also known as the “Official Birthday of the Grand Duke or Duchess.” However, the date does not actually correspond to the birthday of any present or past Duke or Duchess of Luxembourg.
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While under Dutch rule, Luxembourg celebrated the birthday of William I, who ruled from 1815 to 1840, on April 24th. His birthday was really on August 24th, but it was thought desirable to celebrate in the spring when the weather was more pleasant. In 1840, when Williams II ascended the throne, the date was moved to the new king’s actual birthday, December 6th. In 1849, when William III began his reign, the date was moved to June 17th, but his birthday was on February 17th. To “correct” this, the celebration was transferred to February 19th beginning in 1859.
In 1890, Luxembourg became an independent nation. For a time, actual birthdays were observed, but in 1919, the Grand Duchess Charlotte’s “birthday” was observed on June 23rd instead of the real date of January 23rd. Again, fair summer weather was the reason for the adjustment. Charlotte was popular enough that, in 1947, her official birthday of June 23rd was declared a national holiday. In 1961, June 23rd was fixed as the permanent date, and though Charlotte’s reign ended in 1964, the June 23rd holiday continues to be celebrated up to the present.
National Day, however, is a time to celebrate more than the birthday of a monarch or even the institution of the monarchy. It is an occasion to remember Luxembourg’s unique history and culture and to celebrate its independence.
Should you find yourself in Luxembourg during Luxembourgian National Day, here are some events you may wish to attend:
- Celebrations begin on June 22nd, “National Day Eve.” You will find there are events all over the country, but the main events are in the capital, Luxembourg City. There you can see a torchlight procession that starts at 10pm and a large fireworks show. The fireworks are shot off from several different locations, and a local tour guide can direct you to the most spectacular viewing areas. Earlier in the day, at 4pm, you can see a changing of the guard ceremony at the Grand Duke’s palace.
- After the fireworks are over, Luxembourg City becomes the scene of a massive party. All over town, in alleyways and streets and public buildings, the festivities continue for hours on end. There are free-to-attend concerts, dance events, and an abundance of food stalls. Look for special Luxembourgian sausages, waffles, and potato fritters. If you indulge, you may wish also to try some of Luxembourg’s special variety of beers and wines.
- The Grand Duke and his family visit several towns in Luxembourg each year for National Day. On June 22nd, you can see them in Esch sur Alzette, the country’s second-largest city, normally about 5pm in the Place de la Resistance. Only half an hour later, he will usually visit the town of Troisvierges, specifically at the Place de la Mairie.
- On National Day itself, June 23rd, there are yet more events to attend. There will be official ceremonies, the inspection of the troops by the Grand Duke, a 101-cannon salute, and a large military parade near the Luxembourg City train station. Additionally, there is a traditional mass held on National Day afternoon, around 4:30 pm, at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Though Luxembourg is a small country, it celebrates its annual national day with great fervour. Both tourists from afar and those living in the countries immediately surrounding the Grand Duchy flood in for the festivities every June 22nd and 23rd.