This year's Oktav is taking place again, under the heading 'suddenly, everything was different'. Although masses are being held as usual, some limitations continue to apply. i.e. only 100 people are able to participate in masses at any given time and will have to register in order to be allowed in. More information here.
The 'Oktav', celebrated in honour of the Virgin Mary, is one of the main events of the year. Over the period of a fortnight, in April and May, parishioners from all over the country, as well as from the Eiffel region in Germany, the Belgian Province of Luxembourg, and France's Lorraine region, embark on a pilgrimage to Luxembourg's capital. Once there, they go to see the statue of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg, and then find something to eat at the 'Mäertchen' (literally 'small market'), held on the Place Guillaume II.
A long-standing tradition
The pilgrimage dates back to 1666, when the country was suffering during the Plague. The provincial council chose Mary, Mother of God, as the country’s patron saint and protector, and as Consoler of the Afflicted ('consolatrix afflictorum'). From then on, the Duchy's inhabitants started participating in this pilgrimage to the Glacis chapel to ask for the healing of diseases.
Later, the statue was moved to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg, where it can be seen today, standing on its golden votive altar. The statue is dressed in festive garb for the occasion, and the cathedral is richly decorated.
Today, most parishes organise pilgrimages covering at least part of the distance. Pilgrims arrive on the outskirts of the city before forming processions that make their way to the cathedral in prayer.
The end of the Oktav is marked by a final solemn procession, during which the statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the streets of the capital. Believers forming the processions are joined by representatives of the Grand-Ducal family, the Government, the Chamber of Deputies, the courts of justice, and other public institutions.
Another part of the pilgrimage, the Oktavsmäertchen held on the Knuedler (Place Guillaume II) is a small market closely connected to the 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.