In the Grand Duchy, Christmas is one of the most important festivals of the year. The Christmas feeling starts at the end of November, with a number of Christmas markets, parades, decorations in the shops, concerts and other events, all adding up to create a magical festive atmosphere all over the Grand Duchy. The varied Christmas celebrations include both the purely festive aspect and the religious dimension.
A religious festival
Most of the Grand Duchy's population is Roman Catholic. To celebrate Christmas - and hence the birth of Jesus - practising Catholics attend mass: either midnight mass (Metten) on Christmas Eve (24 December), or Christmas mass on Christmas Day (25 December). A particularly beautiful midnight mass is celebrated every year at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg.
In the same way, many families set up a Christmas crib scene in their homes each year. And in many villages the children enact Krëppespill (Nativity plays).
A family celebration
Apart from the religious aspect, Christmas is above all a family celebration. In the Grand Duchy, the festivities on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day mean above all lots of family get-togethers and large meals.
It used to be traditional in the Grand Duchy to serve Träipen (black pudding) with mashed potato and apple compote on Christmas Eve, after midnight mass. This tradition has been more or less abandoned these days. A number of rather less typical dishes have become more important: turkey, fondue, seafood, Yule log, Stollen, etc.
Even so, throughout Advent, many Luxembourg specialities take centre stage. Whether it's while visiting the Winterlights festival in Luxembourg City or elsewhere in the country, any visit to a Christmas market provides an opportunity to enjoy Gromperekichelcher (potato cakes), Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht (local sausages), Glühwäin (mulled wine) and Egg Nog (a drink of sweetened milk with crème fraîche, vanilla and rum). Boxemännercher (person-shaped brioche buns) make their appearance around the time of St Nicholas' Day, on 6 December. And the Federation of Bakers and Pastry-cooks regularly invents new specialities for the festive season.
Gifts and decorations
In early December, the Kleeschen (St Nicholas) brings little Luxembourgers toys and sweets. And at Christmas the gifts just keep on coming. In the Grand Duchy it is not Father Christmas who brings gifts for children (and adults) - it's the Chrëschtkëndchen (baby Jesus). Gifts are placed beneath the cheerily decorated Christmas tree that most Luxembourgers set up in their homes.
Christmas decorations start to appear everywhere after the first day of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas Day). The streets of towns and villages light up, Christmas pyramids are assembled at Christmas markets, and large Nativity scenes and impressive Christmas trees are set up in central squares. Then, most homes make or buy an Adventskranz - an Advent wreath - made of sprigs of fir, pine, holly and sometimes mistletoe, decorated with four candles. One extra candle is lit each Sunday of Advent.
Children spend Advent opening one window on their Advent calendars each day from 1st to 24th December. The calendars originally contained religious pictures, but nowadays there is a biscuit, some chocolate, or a small toy behind each window.
It's a festive time of year
Christmas is probably one of the most important festivals in the year for many Luxembourgers. And indeed 25 December (Chrëschtdag - Christmas Day) and 26 December (Stiefesdag -St Stephen's Day) are public holidays. An opportunity to make the most of the festive atmosphere.
Most shops, banks and companies are closed on the afternoon of 24 December. On the other hand, once Advent starts, shops in the main towns are often open on Sundays. Children in fundamental and secondary schools get two weeks' school holiday (from 19 December 2015 to 3 January 2016).
And if you're looking for some enjoyable activities at this time of year, you'll be spoiled for choice: Christmas concerts and children's events are schedules throughout the Grand Duchy, particularly in connection with the larger Christmas markets, as in Luxembourg City and Differdange. There are regular ice-rinks at Kockelscheuer, Remich and Beaufort. Those who prefer something warmer can opt for one of the many swimming pools and spa centres in the Grand Duchy.
(CHECK CULTURE) On the culture side, TRAFFO CarréRotondes and the theatres in Luxembourg City are offering their 'Chrëschtdeeg am Theater'('Christmas days at the theatre') from 17 December 2014 to 3 January 2015. A good number of museums are closed on 25 December and 1 January, but remain open on the other days. Check times before a visit though, to be on the safe side.
All that remains is for us to wish you 'Schéi Chrëschtdeeg' (merry Christmas)!
(Article written by the editorial team of the portal www.luxembourg.lu)