Buergbrennen: Luxembourg’s Unique Way of Sending Off Winter

Buergbrennen: Luxembourg’s Unique Way of Sending Off Winter

with 17 Comments

 

If you happen to be in Luxembourg on the first Sunday after Carnival, you might see a huge bonfire on the hilltop of cities and villages throughout the country. We call this tradition the Buergbrennen, and it’s the Luxembourgish way to send off winter.

 

Around mid-January, local youth clubs and associations drive from door to door to collect the residents’ old Christmas trees. Along with hay and logs amassed in the nearby woods, the old Christmas tree trunks are dried and used to build a huge cross on the following month.

 

 

On the day of Buergbrennen, also known as Faaschtefeier (Lent festival), this cross is erected on the summit of the village’s hill or anyplace upland. When the night is falling, villagers gather around it to lit on the huge bonfire. In some larger cities, the festivity starts with a torchlit procession, or includes a spectacle with live music during the Buergbrennen.

 

For a long time, we had thought that the word Buerg from Buergbrennen has something to do with the German word Burg, meaning castle. But Buerg actually comes from the Latin verb burere, which means “to burn”. The Luxembourgish term brennen also means “to burn”. So on the Sunday of Lent, we come together to “burn-burn” away the cold winter days.

 

A post shared by Karolina Ferfet (@czar_lee) on

 

The lightning of fire to celebrate the end of winter is actually a pagan custom. According to tradition, it is supposed to welcome spring by saying farewell to the darker days of winter. That is why the Buergbrennen takes place around the time of the spring equinox. In France and Belgium, the Buergbrennen is known as dimanche des Bures or dimanche des Brandons, and is celebrated only in certain parts of these two countries. Whereas in Luxembourg, almost every town or neighborhood of larger cities have their own bonfire, and most Luxembourgers have been to this festivity at least once in their lifetime.

 

For those who are totally freaked out by this peculiar custom, know that prior to the burning session comes the serving of beer, sausages and the traditional pea soup called Ierzebulli. So if you would like to meet the locals, make sure to attend one of the many Buergbrennen!

Buergbrennen, Luxembourg's Unique Way of Sending Off Winter © Travelwithmk.com

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Travelers at heart, Mei and Kerstin have been roaming the world together since 2002. Expats for over a decade, they used to live in Bordeaux, Paris, Athens, and San Francisco. They recently returned to their motherland to get married, and decided to stay to re-explore Luxembourg in depth. While they both have a full time job, they continue to feed their wanderlust by traveling the world whenever they can.

17 Responses

  1. Milkytravel
    | Reply

    i love traveling for carnivals and celebrations. it’s so much more fun and joy! By the way it is exactly the same way as we greet spring in Lithuania 🙂

  2. Marteen Lane
    | Reply

    What a cool way to send off winter. It’s lovely all the locals come together in their respective towns and villages.

  3. Anja Ben
    | Reply

    What, I’ve been to Luxembourg twice and never tried (or heard about) the traditional pea soup! I have to try it next time! We actually visited when Buergbrennen was taking place, and had a plan to go with our friends, but something came up, and we didn’t go at the end. Hopefully this year it will hurry up spring! 🙂

  4. Nicola
    | Reply

    What a creative way! I love Luxembourg. Everything from the food to the architecture – it’s just aboslutely gorgeous. That said, being from Dubai, I bet most times we wouldn’t want to bid farewell to the “winter” we experience.

  5. What an interesting way of sending off winter. My first time to hear about this tradition. This is just a perfect example of what I love about traveling – discovering the people and the place by witnessing their traditions.

  6. Marvi
    | Reply

    This is so interesting to know! What an amazing tradition.. I love the fact that the activity is somehow participated by the community (e.g the collection of the residents’ old Christmas Tree). Traditions like this are so great if sustained for years to come!

  7. Dave
    | Reply

    I have never heard of this tradition before. It seems something similar to the Burning Man Festival on one of the Scottish Islands. Definitely something to lookout for when in Luxembourg. Learnt something new . Thankyou

  8. Ghia Lorenzo
    | Reply

    I really love this post, it is so informative. The photos looks so nice and their tradition is so alive. Thanks for sharing this post!

  9. Candy
    | Reply

    I would help celebrate to say goodbye to winter! Hahahah, I always look forward to the warmer months 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha! We do too! Winter can be beautiful but one month would be enough, don’t you think? 🙂

  10. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I am all for saying goodbye to winter. I would probably participate in any celebration that centred on welcoming more sunshine and spring. I bet the soup is good too.

  11. Michael Hodgson
    | Reply

    What a spectacular thing to see … I have never heard of this tradition but now, have to put in on my list of things I want to see personally! Love your photo of it.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      It can be quite spectacular to see such a huge structure being burned off to the ground!

  12. laura
    | Reply

    WHAAAT this is so cooL! I love this tradition. Never heard of it but such a fun read!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Laura. Always glad to share some lesser-known stuff with you guys! 🙂

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