What is Liichtmëssdag in Luxembourg?

with 20 Comments
Children holding colorful lanterns © Franz Ferdinand
Lanterns © Franz Ferdinand

 

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”.

 

Children at Liichtmëssdag in Luxembourg © SIP Le portail officiel du GD de Luxembourg
Children at Liichtmëssdag in Luxembourg © SIP Le portail officiel du GD de Luxembourg

 

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!

 

So, do you have enough candies and coins at home ?
Be ready to welcome the kids!

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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.

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20 Responses

  1. thestoryteller
    | Reply

    It’s interesting to learn about the history of Luxembourg – it comes with the language, it’s so German but a little slang. I understand the lyrics and I don’t know if I’ll be happy with what I understood or not! Hehe. Just like all the nursery rhymes from the UK – it has a lot of mysterious story, too. All in all, pre-Christmas celebration is always fun especially with kids!

  2. Mansoureh
    | Reply

    I have never heard of Liichtmëssdag before. Such a lovely tradition. It is interesting to know that such a small country has such an amazing tradition. It is also interesting that other Christian countries won’t celebrate Liichtmëssdag.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha well there are many other traditions here in Luxembourg that don’t exist in other countries or regions in Europe. 🙂

  3. Ava
    | Reply

    I’ve never heard of this before but it reminds me of Halloween, except for the addition of the singing. I hide on Halloween so would not be one of those handing out candy.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes it is a bit like Halloween. Although we have another thing here which also resembles Halloween but is celebrated in February/early March as well, and that‘s the Carnival. 😉

  4. SherianneKay
    | Reply

    I love this!!! I would give out the best candy ever so all the kids came to my house and gave me lots of hope. I don’t quite get the song but no matter. Wait, you guys live here right? I’m coming next year!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yep we live in Luxembourg. 🙂 When are you visiting next year? Let us know, so we‘ll send you some tips!

  5. melody pittman
    | Reply

    What a fun story! Just for kicks, I tried to muddle through the song’s pronunciation and my daughter is cracking up! 😉 Such a sweet even in Luxembourg. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha… you‘ll have to teach your daughter Léiwer Härgottsblieschen one day! 🙂

  6. Rosemary
    | Reply

    What a great tradition. It’s one I’ve never heard of, but I appreciate the sentiment. The history is very interesting and it’s great to see this tradition kept alive after so many years. Beautiful paper lanterns, I’d love to someday see the kids with the lanterns and hear the song. Thanks for sharing this unique festivity!!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yeah traditions in Luxembourg are pretty well kept alive! After all, the motto of Luxembourgers is “mir wëlle bleiwen wat mir sinn”, which means “we want to stay what we are”. 😄

  7. Hannah
    | Reply

    I’d not heard of Liichtmëssdag before! But we do Candlemas (La Chandeleur) here in France, so they are connected. Instead of lanterns it’s all about pancakes here! It’s neat seeing how these traditions morph from place to place.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes we also know Candlemas. This year we made crêpes at home (after handing out candies and nuts to the kids who came ringing at our door). 😉

  8. Lisa
    | Reply

    Oh, I just love the reason behind the festival – so special 💛 I especially love that they carry lanterns to symbolize the hope that they’re bringing you, it must be such a pretty sight 😍

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes seeing all the little children dressed warmly and walking from door to door with their lantern and singing is just so cute!

  9. Heather Widmer
    | Reply

    Iv’e never heard of Liichtmëssdag, what a lovely tradition! How fortunate to be in Luxembourg during this event. Thank you for sharing this, I would definitely keep the beginning of February in mind when planning a trip to Luxembourg. I would love to see the children going door to door singing with their handmade lanterns! And I have to admit, the song lyrics are very interesting!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      When we were kids, we loved the time at school before Liichtmëssdag when we got to make our own lanterns! 😉

  10. Janine Thomas
    | Reply

    I have never heard of this festival before. There are so many traditions that date back centuries in Europe and some are specific just to villages.That’s what I love about visiting. you never know what you will come across. It was interesting reading about the origins of the Liichtmëssdag even if the words of the song are a bit macabre.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha yes the text of the song is a bit macabre for elderly people! So we used to change it into “let the young people live and the old people too!” 😃

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