All Saints' Day and Trauliicht

Commemorating saints and chasing spirits

Autumn, a rainy season characterised by shortening evenings and falling leaves, often seems to mark a lull between the sunny summer months and the festive period around Christmas. But the bleak days are livened up by two interlinked traditions: Allerhellegen (All Saints' Day) and Trauliicht, celebrated over the religious triduum of Allhallowtide, a three-day period of observance between 31 October and 2 November.

Toussaint - Cimetière
© Roger Nilles / cathol.lu

All Saints' Day, celebrated on 1 November, is the festival of all Christian saints, including those who have not been canonised and whose sainthood is known only to God. All Souls' Day, which takes place the following day, is a celebration of all the deceased who, according to Catholic doctrine, are in Purgatory and have not yet entered into full union with God.

To mark the occasion, believers and non-believers alike gather at cemeteries to remember family members who have passed away and lay flowers and candles at their graves. This tradition is often accompanied by a religious ceremony and a blessing of graves.

The introspective, retrospective nature of this commemorative festival is in stark contrast with the more joyful, popular tradition of Trauliicht, observed the day before All Saints' Day, which is reminiscent of similar festivals elsewhere in the world (such as the Día de Muertos in Mexico).

Trauliicht - Lampions
© Tourist Center ASBL

Trauliicht is none other than the local variant of the well-known festival of Halloween, whose name is derived from All Hallow's Eve (literally the day before All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day).

Both Trauliicht and Halloween can be traced back to ancient festivals and rituals that developed all over Europe to drive away ghosts and offer protection from the souls of the departed and evil spirits - as well as to hold back the impending darkness of winter.

Trauliicht is traditionally observed most in the rocky hills of the Ardennes, in northern Luxembourg, where the festival was widespread until the 1970s. It then experienced a resurgence in the entire country with the rise in popularity of the "Americanised" version of Halloween in the 1990s.

While the two variants share the same roots, Trauliicht has remained a more traditional, less commercial festival than its transatlantic equivalent. Instead of the pumpkins usually associated with Halloween, locals hollow out a beetroot, chisel out a scary face and place a candle inside, before parading it through the village on a stick.

  • Updated 06-12-2018