On 25 December, Luxembourgers celebrate Christmas, one of the most important Christian festivals, in memory of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. Christmas Eve, 24 December, provides an occasion for organising a festive family meal and, for practising Christians, the opportunity to attend midnight mass.
A religious festival
In Luxembourg, the majority of the population are Catholic. To celebrate Christmas, practising Christians attend mass — either midnight mass (Metten) on 24 December, or Christmas mass on 25 December. A particularly beautiful midnight mass is celebrated every year at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg. For practical reasons, mass is also celebrated in the early evening on 24 December.
Many villages also stage Krëppespiller (nativity plays), performed by children.
A family celebration
But Christmas is above all a family celebration, characterised especially by family reunification where people share a hearty meal.
Formerly, after the end of the midnight mass, many Luxembourgers ate Träipen (black pudding) with mashed potatoes and apple sauce. Nowadays, meals are often a little less locally typical: turkey, fondue, seafood, Yule log, Stollen, etc. However, many typical Luxembourgish dishes are also consumed around Christmas time, such as Gromperekichelcher (potato fritters), Boxemännercher (a brioche in the shape of a man), Glühwäin (mulled wine) and Egg Nogg (a drink made of sweetened milk, cream, vanilla and rum).
According to an annual study, Luxembourgers spend around 700 euros for the end of year festivities.
For Luxembourgish kids, is not Father Christmas who brings gifts, but d'Chrëschtkëndchen (infant Jesus). And it is the Kleeschen (St Nicholas) who brings gifts on 6 December. In some families, presents are opened on Christmas Eve, while in others they are opened on Christmas Day (25 December).
The presents are placed under the Christmas Tree, which can be found in the majority of Luxembourgish households.
Advent and preparation for Christmas
Numerous Christmas markets, processions, cribs, illuminated streets, decorated shops, concerts and other events create a magical festive atmosphere throughout the country. Luxembourg City, for example, creates a winter festival atmosphere with its ‘Winterlights’, providing a unifying theme for a whole series of advent festivities: a Christmas Parade, Christmas markets, public concerts, exhibitions, and a variety of other events.
In the weeks preceding Christmas, Christmas parties are held in nurseries, fundamental schools, homes for the elderly, sports clubs, etc. Christmas concerts take place in churches, schools and on the Christmas markets.
In fundamental schools and children's choirs, children spend weeks learning Christmas carols. At home, children particularly enjoy the preparation of Christmas biscuits, and decorations are put up according to each family's tradition.
Many Christmas trees are decorated as long as two or three weeks before Christmas. In some villages, girl guides and boy scouts go around collecting Christmas trees in the first week of the new year. They use them as firewood at the Buergbrennen, a celebration centred around a huge bonfire.
On the first Sunday of advent, the first candle on the family Adventskranz (advent wreath ) is lit. The majority of households create or buy advent wreaths made of fir branches, pine, holly or sometimes mistletoe, adorned with four candles. Each Sunday of advent, an additional candle is lit.
Children pass the time until Christmas by opening another window on their advent calendars each day from 1 to 24 December. Originally, these calendars contained religious images, but these have now been replaced by biscuits, chocolates or small toys.
And when this atmosphere is enhanced by a snow-covered landscape, Luxembourgers can enjoy a perfect Christmas.
Public holidays and school holidays
Christmas is one of the most important holidays for many Luxembourgers. On 25 December, Chrëschtdag (Christmas Day) and 26 December, Stiefesdag (Boxing Day), are legal holidays.
Most shops, banks and businesses close on the afternoon of 24 December and remain closed on 25 and 26 December. Children in fundamental and secondary education, for their part, enjoy 2 weeks of school holidays.