If you happen to be in Luxembourg on the 2nd of February, chances are you’ll come across groups of children in the streets holding a paper lantern. Perhaps you’ll even have a few kids ringing at your door. Don’t be surprised when they start singing to you, once you open the door. But most importantly, be prepared to give them candies, nuts, fruits or money once they finish their song!
What is Liichtmëssdag?
Liichtmëssdag is an old Pre-Christian tradition in Luxembourg. Liicht means light, Mëss in Luxembourgish is a mass (or service at church), and Dag means day. Liichtmëssdag is thus the “day of light”.
Originally, this tradition comes from the Celtic feast of Imbold, celebrated on the 1st of February. During this festivity, farmers would assemble in a procession, clutching their torches to fight off the shadows of the night. They would then gather in front of a statue of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Fertility, to ask her to cleanse the soil to ensure a great harvest at the end of winter and the upcoming revival of nature.
In the 5th century, the Pope replaced this ritual with the Lutefest, the festival of the light or Candlemas. The purpose was now to remember the day when Virgin Mary brought Jesus to the temple to be purified. Instead of torches, they now used candles to symbolize this purifying process. The faithful were offered blessed bees wax, which was meant either to keep off danger, or to be burnt when a danger was lurking.
Nowadays, the kids’ mission is to go from door to door in their neighbourhood, bringing you hope in form of a light in their little lantern, and to wish you good health and the best of luck for the new year. In exchange, you offer them sweets or money. They usually make their own paper lanterns days in advance. Then at dusk they gather in small groups, sometimes accompanied by an adult, and go from doorstep to doorstep singing the “Léiwer Härgottsblieschen”.
Here’s the lyric, so you can sing along:
Léiwer Härgottsblieschen, gitt ons Speck an Ierbëssen,
Ee Pond, zwee Pond, dat anert Jor, da gitt der gesond.
Loosst déi jong Leit liewen, loosst déi al Leit stierwen.
Kommt der net bal, d’Féiss ginn eis kal;
Kommt der net gläich, da gi mer op d’Schläich;
Kommt der net geschwënn, d’Féiss ginn eis dënn;
Kommt der net gewëss, da kritt Der e Schouss voll Nëss !
In case you wish to understand the meaning of this song, here’s our translation in English:
Dear Saint Blaise, give us bacon and peas,
One pound, two pounds, the next year you’ll be healthy.
Let the young people live, let the old people die.
You’re not coming soon, our feet will get cold.
You’re not coming soon, we’ll go on tiptoe.
You’re not coming soon, our feet are getting thin.
You’re not coming for sure, then you’ll get a lap full of nuts!