Festivals and Traditions

All Saints - a day devoted to remembering

On 1 November each year, many Luxembourgers visit the cemetery to remember deceased family members and friends

Ange dans un cimetièreThe end of October is not just when the clocks go back or when the weather turns cold and wet. Not long before 1 November, cemeteries all over the Grand Duchy start to get cleaned up, then decorated with chrysanthemums and pansies. All in honour of All Saints' Day — Allerhellgen in Luxembourgish

Remembering ancestors

1 November is a public holiday; some cemeteries are crowded with people on that day. Believers and non-believers gather around the tombs to remember their deceased family members and friends. As in other predominantly Roman Catholic countries, the gathering in the cemetery on All Saints' Day nevertheless forms part of a clearly defined religious ceremony. In most places, mass is celebrated first, and then the tombs are blessed. Some places also organise similar ceremonies on 2 November — All Souls' Day (Allerséilen).

At the same time, hollowed out sugar beets with candles start appearing in windows and on walls in villages, especially in the north of the country. Decorated with scary grimasses, these Trauliichter were used to protect homes against evil spirits.

A long-lasting tradition

All Saints' Day is the feast day of all the saints, whether or not they have been canonised, in the Roman Catholic tradition. A number of sources nevertheless point out that the origins of the day go back to various pagan cultures. The first real cemeteries did not appear until the 18th century, and the reason was hygiene. Previously, the bodies of the dead were buried in the centre of the village, often inside a religious building. 

The Grand Duchy currently has a number of unusual cemeteries, including the cemetery of Our Lady of Luxembourg, where guided tours are sometimes organised. Since 2010, a number of forest cemetaries have started to open up.

(Article written by the editorial team of the portal Luxembourg.lu)

  • Updated 27-10-2016