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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Celebrating the National Day of Luxembourg


Luxembourgers are gearing up to celebrate one of the biggest festivities in their country this weekend. June 23 is celebrated in the country of Luxembourg as its National Day.

In many countries around the world, National Day is celebrated to commemorate the country’s independence from a colonial ruler. In Luxembourg, it is a day to honor their Grand Duke.

Luxembourg

Emblèmes of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is a delightful Western European country nestled between Belgium, France and Germany. Though this diminutive country is often overshadowed by its larger neighbors, Luxembourg is home to over half a million residents with strong political influence and a highly developed economy. In fact, the people of Luxembourg enjoy the highest GDP per capita in the world! Since 1815, the country has been headed by a grand duchy, when the King of the Netherlands recognized the territory as an independent kingdom.

In the country, three official languages are spoken: French, German and Luxembourgish, which is a language that is largely based in French. Luxembourgish is the Grand Duchy’s national language and is considered as the language of the heart or the mother tongue of the country’s citizens.

Grand Duchy

Henri of Luxembourg
We are all familiar with royalty, especially the British Monarchy, but not so much with a Grand Dukedom.

Today, Luxembourg is the only country in the world that has a sovereign grand duchy or a grand dukedom. This title stems from the Latin words Magnus Dux, and is just a hair’s breath away from royalty, since it is a distinguished rank just below the king. The title Grand Duke also takes precedence over a sovereign duke or even a sovereign prince. Today, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg is Henri.

Official but not actual birthdays

Aside from being known as the National Day of the country, this is also the official birthday of the Grand Duke. However, this is not the actual birthday of the country’s ruler, Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, whose birthday actually falls on April 16. In fact, no Grand Duke of the country has even had a birthday falling on June 23.

It is also recognized as the birthday of the Grand Duchess Charlotte, whom the country honors as its greatest ruler, even though it is not her actual birth date.

The Grand Duchess

Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Since the 18th century, the birthday of the Sovereign has been celebrated. Grand Duchess Charlotte was born on January 23, 1869 and she held the throne from 1919 to 1964. 

People may be wondering why the celebration is held in the summer when Grand Duchess Charlotte’s birthday obviously falls during the winter season. For practical reasons, the celebration was moved to a period when the weather is warmer. It is after all, much easier to celebrate and hold outdoor festivities when the days are longer and the temperatures are warmer.

The tradition of holding Luxembourg’s National Day every 23rd of June has been done since 1962. This year’s celebration marks the 50th year that this important national holiday is being celebrated.

Celebrations on the eve of the 23rd

It’s always a big day when the 23rd of June is coming up in Luxembourg. In fact, as early as the eve of National Day, various cities already hold grand parties on June 22. The parties are especially grand at the country’s capital, city of Luxembourg as well as in the town of Esch-sur-Alzette.

This is the time of year when the who’s who of Luxembourg come out and celebrate. The ruling family makes an appearance, as well as the country’s political leaders. Many of the country’s celebrities, as well as thousands of visitors and tourists from all over the world come together with the Luxembourgers to celebrate.

Fakelzuch

The eve of the Fête is marked by merrymaking. In the afternoon, there is the changing of the guards at the Grand Ducal Palace. The Grand Duke also visits Esch-sur-Alzette, followed by a tour of the capital city.

The streets of the city are lined with the country’s flags and people wait on the sides to watch the torchlight parade that starts at 10 in the evening. Participants of the parade carry torches while going through the city center of Luxembourg.

Fête de la Musique

Spleen at the Fête de la Musique in Dudelange, Luxembourg
Various concerts and music festivals are held as part of the celebration, as well as an open air Konschtfestival Leggen, which is an outdoor arts festival. DJs play music and free public concerts are held at the Place d’Armes and Place Guillaume II. Balls and dances also mark the event.

There is a colorful fireworks display that illuminates the bridge over the Petrusse Valley, Point Adolphe. The evening then kicks off with a celebration wherein the people eat sausages, waffles, drink beer and dance to music right on the streets. Various genres of music are played and danced to, while bars and are brimming with people till the wee hours of dawn.

Te Deum

On the actual day of the Fête, there are still a number of ceremonial events. As a Roman Catholic country, celebrating a mass is part of any important event. There is a thanksgiving mass where the Te Deum is done. This a Christian hymn of praise that is in done in Latin. The mass is held at the city’s Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Luxembourg.

Military honors

There is also a military parade that marches along the Avenue of Liberty, much to the delight of the spectators. Another part of the celebration is the Shot of Honor 101 guns salute held on the June 23.

Fête Luxembourg is indeed an important celebration in the country. The whole country, led by His Royal Highness, Grand Duke Henri along with his Royal Family, come together on this day to honor their beloved Grand Duke, remember their beloved Duchess, and take the time to relax and enjoy the country’s culture and traditions.

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