December is one of the best times to visit Luxembourg and see firsthand how some of its legendary figures come to life. Traditionally, the most important winter holiday is Kleeserchersdag on December 6. In the nights running up to the big day, children leave their slippers out, and the kindly Kleeschen (St. Nicholas) fills them with goodies. The day is so important that primary schools close so that children can enjoy their treats.
An inseparable duo
The Kleeschen is often seen in the company of a dark figure called the Houseker, who looks like an overworked chimney sweep. Dressed in black and exuding menace, the Houseker knows if children have been naughty. If so, he might threaten to whack them with a bundle of sticks he carries everywhere.
These two figures keep a busy schedule in early December, visiting primary schools and shopping centers. Visitors can see the Houseker and the Kleeschen, with his recognizable bishop’s miter and staff, at any number of places around Luxembourg, in processions in and around the city, and along the Moselle in Remich, the Kleeschen arrives triumphantly by boat.
A taste of traditions
You may also find the Kleeschen in the form of a chocolate figurine at any number of local patisseries including Namur and Oberweis. You might spot him alongside three chocolate kids in a tub. Many countries in the region have a folktale about St. Nicholas saving three children, and Luxembourg has its own local spin, expressed in a 1944 poem. Back when Luxembourg City was a Festung (fortress), three adventurous boys sneaked over the wall and found themselves in the Grund, which today is one of the capital’s most iconic neighborhoods and through which the tranquil Alzette River runs. There, the boys encountered an evil man nicknamed Monni Metzler (“Uncle Butcher”) who turned them into jellied pâté. Luckily for the boys, the Kleeschen eventually showed up and resurrected them.
Christmas in Luxembourg
Christmas in Luxembourg is celebrated similarly to nearby countries. In the weeks leading up to 25 December, many families set up a Christmas tree and hang an Advent calendar with sweets inside. Some families attend Metten (midnight Mass) on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, they would then eat Träipen (blood sausage), a potato dish, and apple puree – washed down with a mug of the hot mulled wine Glüwäin. Some families do exchange gifts for Christmas, but this practice is fairly new and takes place on 24 December, as is typical in the neighboring countries of France, Belgium and Germany. In Luxembourg, it is not the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus), who brings gifts to kids, but rather the Chrëschtkëndchen, the baby Jesus. And Christmas would not be Christmas if one did not enjoy some Boxemännchen – traditional glazed brioche pastries that look like little men – which you can find in every supermarket and bakery in the country. Of course, the lead up to Christmas would not be complete without Luxembourg’s many Christmas markets.