December is a month full of traditions, celebrations and gifts. Whilst the dark sets in earlier and earlier, the Christmas decorations and winter lights make up for it and add to the festive atmosphere. Don’t miss out on a delicious Gromperekichelchen (potato cake) on the Chrëschtmaart (Christmas market) in town, sip some Glühwain (mulled wine) while listening to Chrëschtdagslidder (Christmas Carols).
Marie-Claire O’Sullivan-Dahm, a Luxembourgish teacher, and part of LuxMeetGreet, explains all you need to know about the wonderful December traditions in the Duchy.
De Kleeschen – Niklosdag – Saint Nicolas’ Day: 6 December
This used to be the most eagerly awaited day of the entire year for kids. Starting already a week before the actual day, each evening kids place their shoe or slipper ‘De Schong setzen’ in the hallway hoping to receive a small gift such as a sweet or a toy in return for having been good and obedient. If they hadn’t been, then there would be eng Rutt (a rod). These treats/punishments are delivered by ‘Den Houseker’, St Nicolas’ helper.
‘Kleeschen’ descends from heaven on the eve of his feast, accompanied by ‘den Houseker’ and a donkey laden with presents and sweets, to reward little children who have been good.
He and his helper, put sweets, seasonal fruits and toys in the plates, that were laid out on the dining room table by the children before going to bed.
With the plates will be carrots and hay for the donkey and, if it is going to be a cold night, there is usually a glass of liqueur awaiting Kleeschen.
So who is Kleeschen? He is the patron saint of children who served as bishop of Myra in today’s Turkey during the 4th century. There are many legends about him helping children, the most famous being the one that relates how he miraculously saved three children from death in the salting tub of a butcher during a famine.
Luxembourg is the only country in the world where primary school kids get a day off school on 6th of December in order to fully enjoy the presents.
Want to know where you can meet Kleeschen? You can find out where he’ll be here.
Christmas markets, Winterlights and more
During the Advent season, there are many Christmas markets organized throughout the country. The ‘Chrëschtmaart’ in Luxembourg is the biggest and is held both op der Plëss, on the main square or Place d’Armes, as well as on the square at the foot of the Gëlle Fra, (Golden Lady). There are carousels, a big wheel, crafts and gifts, and of course the typical gastronomic flavours of Luxembourg, Gromperekicheler and Glühwäin, as well as dishes from the neighboring regions and beyond.
The ‘Winterlights’ as they are called by the Luxembourg City and the Luxembourgish Tourist Office also include many public concerts, procession and parades.
Find out exactly when and where the Christmas Markets in Luxembourg and its surrounds are on by reading the City Savvy Guide: Christmas Markets.
Hellegerowend (Christmas Eve) and Chrëschtdag (Christmas Day): 24-25 December
After Easter this is the biggest celebration for the Catholics as they celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. A Chrëschtbeemchen (Christmas tree) and a Krëppchen (crib) both have pride of place in Luxembourgish living rooms in December.
On Hellegerowend (Christmas Eve), families exchange gifts before sitting down to a festive evening meal. Previously, families would attend ‘d’Metten’ the midnight mass, but these days masses are generally held earlier on Saturday or families attend mass on Christmas.
If you are leaving for the holidays to visit family or just have a break, why not wish your Luxembourgish friends and acquaintances Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Luxembourgish:
‘Schéi Chrëschtdeeg an e gudde Rutsch an dat neit Joer’
literally translated as Merry Christmas and a good slide into the New Year.
Silvester (New Year’s Eve): 31 December
New Year’s Eve is called Silvester in Luxembourg as it is the feast day of Pope Sylvester I, a Saint of the Catholic Church who lived from 314 to 335 and who oversaw the conversion of Romans to Christianity.
Like in many other countries today, the evening of the new year is celebrated in pubs, restaurants or private parties, bringing in the New Year with fire crackers and fireworks at the stroke of midnight.
And why not wish a Happy New Year in Luxembourgish with a resolution to learn Luxembourgish in 2017. Here’s to a great New Year.
Ech wënschen Iech all e schéint neit Joer.
(I wish you all a happy New Year).