Allerhellegen and Trauliicht: Honour the dead and drive away evil spirits

When the nights become significantly longer, leaves fall down and the last sunny days of autumn give way to winds and rain, All Saints' Day is just around the corner. On this occasion and faithful to tradition, we commemorate our deceased and cultivate a custom found mainly in the north of the country: the Trauliicht.

All Saints' Day and day of the Dead

Allerhellegen (eng.: All Saints' Day) is a public holiday in the Grand Duchy and is celebrated on 1 November in Christian countries. It is the feast of all Christian saints, including those that were not canonised or whose sanctity is only known to God.

On this occasion, families gather in cemeteries to commemorate their deceased close ones and lay down candles, flowers and wreaths for their sake and memory. This is of normal practice throughout the country and is accompanied by a religious ceremony and the blessing of the graves.

2 November is Allerséilen, the day of the Dead. It is dedicated to all the deceased who, according to Catholic doctrine, are in purgatory and have not yet been fully united with God.

All Saints' Day: Blessing of the graves of Limpertsberg Cemetery.
© / Roger Nilles - CC BY-NC-ND

Some Trauliichter to drive malicious spirits away

In the north of Luxembourg, another tradition is currently experiencing a revival: the Trauliicht. On this occasion, villagers hollow out beetroot that are then decorated with horrible faces. Lit by a candle, these Trauliichter are then placed on village walls and by windows of homes to protect households from the souls of the dead and evil spirits, which are said to be particularly active on those days. In the past, people used the Trauliichter when driving the cows into the barn. They were hung on both sides of the stable door to drive away spirits and diseases when the cattle entered.

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.