Good fun, sweet pretzels, and hot fire

Little Luxembourg is not Rio, Cologne or any other carnival stronghold, yet, you can experience colorful, cheerful carnival traditions in many places including the different Fuesent around the country, the local name for masked balls and cavalcades.

Carnival in Luxembourg starts at the beginning of February and goes until the end of March.  It starts one day after the traditional Liichtmëssdaag, when children go from house to house singing with lanterns in their hands to receive sweets or money in return. After that, the first festive parades with colorful costumes, decorated floats and music, known as “cavalcades”, start.  The first carnival procession of this kind took place in 1870 in Diekirch, where the largest procession in Luxembourg still takes place today with over 20,000 visitors (this year March 3).  There are other parades in Remich (March 11), Esch-sur-Alzette (March 3-5), and Petange (March 11). A special parade for children is held in Kayl.

A spectacular event, always on Ash Wednesday, or Äschermëttwoch,, (February 22 this year), is the Stréimännchen ceremony in Remich. Young people out of control carry a huge doll made of straw through town, then set it on fire and throw the figure into the  Moselle River. This marks the end of carnival in the Moselle region.

Feasting and fasting

In other regions of Luxembourg, carnival days extend beyond Ash Wednesday, sometimes even until the end of Lent. The word carnival comes from carne vale: a farewell to meat because after the wild festivities, the Catholic Church traditionally begins Lent. Once again there is plenty of feasting and drinking. For example, the traditional Nonnefäscht, a type of sweet pancake; the Täertelcher , a doughnut; the Maisercher, doughnuts shaped like a mouse; or the Verwurrelter Gedanken, or “scrambled thoughts”, which are knots of fried pastry dusted with sugar.

In Luxembourg, people sometimes celebrate far beyond Ash Wednesday rather than fasting, until Pretzel Sunday, or Bretzelsonndeg. According to tradition, on this day a man offers a sweet-dough pretzel to his sweetheart as a token of his love. If she reciprocates his love, she gives him an Easter egg on Easter Sunday. If she doesn’t feel the same way, he gets an empty basket. In leap years, this tradition is reversed: the man receives a pretzel from the woman on Pretzel Sunday. And so, the carnival ends either with the joy of love, or heartbreak.

On the first Sunday after Carnival, Buergbrennen takes place. Buergen (torches) are set alight across the country to chase winter away. It’s a popular meeting place and a spectacular event. Grilled food and traditional dishes such as Ierzebulli (pea soup), Bouneschlupp (bean soup) and Glühwäin (mulled wine) are served to warm up the spectators. Luxembourg has plenty of local traditions to take part in during carnival season!

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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