The Oktav, celebrated in honour of the Virgin Mary, is the main religious event of the year. Over the period of a fortnight, usually during the second half of April, parishioners from all over the country, as well as from the Eifel in Germany, the Belgian province of Luxembourg and France’s Lorraine region, embark on a pilgrimage to Luxembourg’s capital. This tradition dates back to 1666, when the provincial council of the time chose the Virgin Mary as the country’s patron saint and Consoler of the Afflicted ('consolatrix afflictorum'), to protect the people from an outbreak of the plague. The origin of the statue of Mary, carved from dark wood, has not been historically established. What is known is that in 1666 the Jesuits transferred it from the old Glacis chapel to what was then the Jesuit church, which has since become the cathedral church of the diocese. During the period of the Oktav, the statue stands on a special votive altar in the central choir.
The pilgrims arrive at the outskirts of the city, where they form processions that make their way to the Cathedral while praying. Over the fortnight of the Oktav, different parishes and various organisations celebrate their own masses. The 'Oktavsmäertchen' held on the Knuedler (Place Guillaume II) is a small market closely linked to religious tradition. After the visit to the Cathedral, pilgrims can head to the market to enjoy a drink or some food and to buy a souvenir among the various ornaments and articles on offer.
The end of the Oktav is marked by a final solemn procession, during which the statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the capital’s streets. Believers forming the procession are joined by members of the grand ducal family, representatives of the government, parliament, the courts of justice and other public institutions.
(Source: BRAUN, Josy. 'Traditions and festivals' in: Lëtzebuerg. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Information and Press Service. 2007.)