Fairs and the Hämmelsmarsch: Traditional celebrations against a musical backdrop

Luxembourg's colourful fairs and the unique Hämmelsmarsch (mutton march) that accompanies them never fail to draw a crowd. These celebrations – whether in quaint villages or at the famous Schueberfouer funfair in Luxembourg City – bring the people of Luxembourg together year after year. Rides, games, parades and culinary delights meld into a festive mosaic that captivates young and old alike. Join us as we delve deeper into the world of fairs in the Grand Duchy. 

The magic of fairs: community and tradition

Whether in a city or a village, fairs and festivals can be found everywhere in Luxembourg. They are places of entertainment, featuring colourful illuminations, games of skill and a range of rides. And the food on offer is just as varied: Gromperekichelcher (Luxembourg's popular potato fritters), grilled food, chips and sweet treats. The stalls not only sell delicious snacks but also create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. In this way, Luxembourg's fairs transform otherwise blank public spaces into bustling hubs where people can socialise and have fun. They are an integral part of Luxembourgish culture, and every year, performers and visitors reunite to honour this longstanding tradition. 

However, today's fairs bear little resemblance to their historical predecessors. Originally, they were religious festivals dedicated to the patron saint of a church or the anniversary of a church consecration. And they were often linked to markets, which are rarely found these days. But although they have evolved over the years, a musical parade – the Hämmelsmarsch still heralds the start of a fair.

And the essence of fairs as venues for community gathering and socialising hasn't changed, either. They continue to serve as local meeting points where people of all generations – whether locals or visitors, family or friends – can come together for food and fun.  

The Hämmelsmarsch: a musical invitation to the fair

The Hämmelsmarsch is a time-honoured Luxembourgish tradition that sees the local music associations parading through the streets to invite everyone to the upcoming fair. The musicians play the eponymous song "Hämmelsmarsch" by Michel Lentz. In the past, a shepherd would lead the parade with his finest sheep, followed by the musicians. Today, this tradition is only preserved at the Schueberfouer, the city of Luxembourg's own fair. In other towns and villages, the sheep are sadly no longer part of the festivities.

But the Hämmelsmarsch is not just a well-known tune heralding the start of a local fair – it is also an important source of income for local music associations: As they parade through the various villages, the musicians enthusiastically collect donations. If a contribution is particularly generous, they are more than happy to perform the waltz "T'ass Kiermes am Duerf" (There's a fair in the village) or offer a celebratory fanfare before moving on.

The Walfer Musek parades through the village and plays the Hämmelsmarsch.

© Walfer Musek


The origins of the parade are rooted in the Schueberfouer, which was partly a market. In the past, shooting competitions were held to celebrate the Schueberfouer, with the prize being a sheep, also called "hammel" in Luxembourgish. With the Hämmelsmarsch, the shepherds wanted to showcase their magnificent animals to promote both the competition and their own business. The parade turned out to be a huge success, so much so that the Hämmelsmarsch took place even when there were no sheep to be won. Since 2008, the Schueberfouer with its Hämmelsmarsch has belonged to the national inventory of intangible cultural heritage.

Extract from Klibberkleeschen 1986 illustrating the Hämmelsmarsch.

© Archives: CNA, Luxembourg

Michel Lentz: spotlight on Luxembourg's national poet

Michel Lentz was a prominent Luxembourgish author and national poet of the 19th century. Born the son of a baker, he went on to became a civil servant and gained nationwide fame for his side passion of writing. His patriotism is evident in well-known works such as "De Feierwon" and "Ons Heemecht".

"De Feierwon" includes a declaration of Luxembourg's independence: "Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin" (We want to remain what we are). This phrase is known to almost every Luxembourger and has become the country's guiding principle.

The first and fourth stanzas of the poem "Ons Heemecht" (Our homeland), set to a melody by Antoine Zinnen, were long considered the unofficial national anthem of Luxembourg, before gaining official status in 1993.


Portrait of Michel Lentz.
© Public Domain

From mysterious origins to cultural anthem

Although the melody of the Hämmelsmarsch is widely known, its creator remains a mystery. The piece is actually a folk tune passed down through generations, but its origins are still unclear. The traditional melody was turned into a song in the 19th century when Michel Lentz wrote lyrics for it and named it "Hämmelsmarsch". The song has also been frequently released under the title "Schuebermëss". In the four-stanza poem, he mentions how people come "vu wäit an no" (from far and near) for the Schueberfouer. The main theme of the piece is collective joy and social happiness, harmoniously intertwined with celebration and tradition. The only catch? Nothing at the fair is free!