FEBRUARY (in Luxembourgish “Spierkel”)
February can be identified as the month of the fools: adults just like kids get dressed and turn into other personalities. It is “Fuesend” (carnival), the season where everybody can dress up as a character they always wished to and escape their everyday routine.
However before the colorful and fun hullabaloo starts, children celebrate “Liichtmëssdag” (candlemas), a Christian festival commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the temple. Although originally a pagan fest and traditionally rooted in Celtic culture, this kind of torchlight procession seems to reflect the monks’ cortege to the temple carrying candles in order to meet Jesus. It also marks the beginning of the “Fuesend”, known as the pre-Lenten holiday season.
According to tradition, at dusk, small groups of children carry their handmade, lighted lanterns across the streets and sing, to the tunes of St. Blaise, a traditional song called “Léiwer Härgottsblieschen” (see below for the full text) wishing people good luck for the year. It is interesting to note that every child in Luxembourg already learns this song at preschool.
The custom of “Liichtmëssdag” can be compared to Halloween, as on that day, children knock at the doors, sing their song and beg for sweets. In exchange for their serenade, children receive a reward. Traditionally “beggars” received bacon and peas, but the custom evolved and recently, although children love sweets, they don’t fay away from receiving some financial donation.
As mentioned before, February with its masked balls, is the month of the fools. During this period, including on Carnival Sunday and Carnival Monday, Luxembourgish leisure clubs and other organizations organize various masked balls, parades and cavalcades for both children and adults. Parades usually combine components from the circus, while using masks and celebrating a street party. Kids are showered with candy and adults love to have a drink while enjoying the foolish ambiance.
The most important cavalcades are held in Diekirch, Schifflange, Esch/Alzette and Remich. Pétange, in the Southwest of the Grand Duchy, holds several “Fuesend” events known as KaGePe and the largest cavalcade, with about 1,200 participants and 30,000 visitors (in 2015 for its 60th anniversary). A fools’ parade especially for children is organized by the city of Kayl, also in the southern part of Luxembourg.
The town of Remich (Eastern Luxembourg, along the Moselle river), besides from three-day-long foolish celebrations, also burns the first “Stréimännchen” (strawman) on Ash Wednesday. A “Stréimännchen” is a male puppet that is burnt and that symbolizes the end of the winter as well as the end of the pre-Lenten season. Another event common to Remich, but also other cities, is the “Buergbrennen” (bonfire) which is supposed to close the “Fuesend” celebrations.
If you wish to meet up with more “fools”, there are masked balls organized in most Luxembourgish cities, but particularly well-known ones and with a multitude of “Fuesbooken” (dressed up people) are among others the balls in Echternach (called Foas-Fiesta), Vianden, Belvaux (called Bieles am Jumm), Esch/Alzette, Differdange (called Clochard’s Bal) and Hesperange (called Piccobello).
Another aspect of the “Fuesend” period are the treats you can eat especially during this time. “Verwurrelter” (scrambled ones; pastry knots sprinkled with icing sugar), “Nonnefäschte” (nuns’ farts; donuts sprinkled with icing sugar), and “Maisercher” (little mice; mouse-shaped donuts) are some of the typical Luxembourgish carnival sweets.
Even though Luxembourg’s carnival starts on “Liichtmëssdag” and ends with burning the “Stréimännchen” on Ash Wednesday, the tradition isn’t as strict as in Germany. This means that you still can find “Fuesend” events organized around the country after Ash Wednesday and they mostly come to an end on the 4th Sunday during Lent.
This is the text of the song “Léiwer Härgottsblieschen”:
Gitt ons Speck an Ierbessen
Ee Pond, zwee Pond,
Dat anert Joer da gitt der gesond,
Da gitt der gesond.
Loosst déi jonk Leit liewen
An déi al derniewent.
Kommt der net bal,
D’Féiss ginn ons kal.
Kommt Der net gläich,
Da gi mer op d’Schläich.
Kommt der net geschwënn,
D’Féiss ginn ons dënn.
Kommt Der net gewëss,
Da kritt Der e Schouss voll Nëss.