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Christmas 2017 and 2018

Christmas Day in Luxembourg is known as “Chreschtdag” and December 26th as “Stiefesdag,” and both of these days are public holidays. Celebrations, however, can begin with Advent, around three weeks ahead of the actual day.

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Most of Luxembourg’s population is Roman Catholic, and many of them will attend a  mass either on the Eve or on Christmas Day. The midnight mass on Christmas Eve is especially traditional and a way to welcome Christmas Day from the very moment it begins in a context where the meaning of His birth is being celebrated.

However, Christmas in Luxembourg is also about family reunions with a good deal of family feasting accompanying the renewal of fellowship. Traditionally, black pudding, mashed potatoes, and applesauce were eaten on Christmas Eve. Today, roast turkey, fish and other seafood, “potato fritters,” eggnog, mulled wines, and sweets such as Stollen and Yule Logs are typical as well.

On December 6th comes Saint Nicholas Day, and this is when “Santa Claus” fills plates with candies, sweets, and small gifts. For the week preceding December 6th, he also fills kids’ slippers with presents each night. Gifts for Christmas Eve are not bought by Santa but by Baby Jesus and left under the Christmas tree to be opened on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The build-up to Christmas Eve is very long and intense in Luxembourg. Beginning several weeks ahead of time, there will be numerous parties and Christmas concerts throughout the country. Some children will also practice for weeks before going carolling, and fully decorated Christmas trees begin to appear weeks in advance as well. Children will also make homemade ornaments well ahead of time, and most families will have an “advent calendar” that counts down the days till Christmas. Candles on “advent wreaths” will also be lit gradually, one candle each Sunday, as the Yuletide approaches.

When Christmas Eve and Day finally arrive, the streets of municipalities throughout Luxembourg will be lit up with Christmas lights, Christmas markets will be held, nativity cribs will be on display, processions will sometimes be held, and the whole country will be abuzz with the Christmas spirit.

After Christmas is over, during the first week of January, boy and girl scouts often go about gathering used Christmas trees to burn in gigantic bonfire events called “Buergbrennen.”

Should you find yourself in Luxembourg during this major holiday, or if you are near enough in Europe to quickly get to Luxembourg for some festive Christmas events, here are some ideas on what to do:

  • Attend midnight services at the imposing but beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City. Services are held there every year on Christmas Eve. You may also wish to attend midnight mass at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Maurice and Saint Maure in the town of Clervaux. The services there have been aired on TV of late, so you can watch them even if you can’t attend them.
  • Tour the Christmas Market in Luxembourg City. Constitution Place and other famous sections of the city are transformed into a full-fledged Christmas playground though much of December. You will see wooden stalls offering all manner of goods, including toys, Christmas decorations, delectable sausages, potato pancakes, and hot mulled wine.
  • Also in Luxembourg City, attend other events going on in December, including parades, concerts, exhibits, and more. The whole series of events, including the market, is referred to collectively as the “Winterlights Festival.”
  • Outside of the main city, you will find there are numerous nativity plays in the smaller villages and towns. These are municipal events, and kids are usually the actors. Christmas concerts are also usually held in the villages, and there is often a Christmas tree auction after the concert, with all the tree money going to charity.

Luxembourg is a small country sandwiched between France, Germany, and Belgium, and yet, despite its size and location, it manages to perpetuate many Christmas traditions and events that are unique and worthwhile to attend.