March (in Luxembourgish “Lenz”)
The “Buergbrennen” (bonfire) traditionally closes the carnival celebrations and is held on Saturday or Sunday (“Buergsonnden”) after Ash Wednesday. This custom from pagan origin symbolizes the end of the winter and the driving away of evil spirits. Like in ancient times, it happens around spring equinox and represents thus the triumph of light and warmth over darkness and coldness.
From a linguistic point of view, “Buerg” can be identified as a false friend in Luxembourgish, as “Buerg” has nothing to do with a castle, but comes from the Latin verb “comburere” meaning to burn. In this sense, the bonfire consists mostly of piles of wood, branches and straw (called the “Buergen”) with a cross as a centerpiece that are lit up on hilltops across the country.
The “Buergbrennen” event is mostly organized by youth organizations, who meet up in the afternoon to build the “Buerg”, take part in a torch parade starting in the village to reach the “Buerg” and then light it up when darkness falls. This event gathers thousands of people of all ages to celebrate together while drinking some mulled wine (“Glühwäin”) and eating sausages and pea or green bean soup (“Ierzebulli” or “Bouneschlupp”) around the flames.
Some villages, as a long-standing tradition, give the honor of setting the “Buerg” on fire to the most recently married couple. Let’s mention as well that the bonfire always takes place under strict surveillance by the local fire department.
On the third Sunday during the Lent season and marking three weeks before Easter, Luxembourgers celebrate “Bretzelsonnden” (Pretzel Sunday).
“Bretzelsonnden” was traditionally a pure matchmaking event: not entirely sure where this tradition comes from, it is said that in the 18th century, the custom began on the day of the “Buergbrennen”. A girl who was in love with a boy called out his name while throwing wood into the fire. If he was also in love, he would give her a Pretzel on “Bretzelsonnden” and she, in return, would give him eggs on Easter day. This generally sealed the marriage deal.
So, on Pretzel Sunday, traditionally a man offers a “Bretzel” to his sweetheart, who normally will give him a chocolate egg in return on Easter Sunday. However, if a woman doesn’t accept the advances made by her admirer, she will hand him over an empty basket. This non-acceptance of the sweet pastry also generated a specific expression in Luxembourgish, namely “de Kuerf kréien”, which literally translates into “to be given the basket” and means “to be rejected”.
It is important to note that during leap years, this custom is reversed, which implies that a woman has to hand out a Pretzel to her sweetheart.
Now a little word regarding the ingredients of “Bretzels”, which are made of a flaky pastry dough (see the recipe below). Shaped into a twisted and curled form representing the interlaced arms of two lovers, some pretzels are covered with a layer of melted sugar and almonds, whereas others are filled with almond paste. Although originally salted, nowadays this sweet “Bretzel” gained popularity.
Here a “Bretzel” recipe
• frozen puff pastry, thawed
• 1 egg, separated
• 150 g almond paste
• 60 g brown sugar
• 2 tsp. milk
• 60 g finely chopped almonds
• 150 g powdered sugar
• 2 tsp. milk
• Preheat the oven to 200º C.
• Lay pastry on floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle and cut in half.
• Place egg yolk in a bowl, add almond paste, brown sugar, and milk. Beat with mixer until blended.
• Spread filling on half of the rectangle, then cover with the other half.
• Cut dough lengthwise into equal strips. Twist each strip several times and then fold into a pretzel shape.
• Put on baking sheet, brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with chopped almonds.
• Bake 15 minutes or until golden.
• Combine powdered sugar and milk for glaze.
• Remove pretzels from the oven and let them cool.
• Drizzle with glaze and almonds if desired.