APRIL (in Luxembourgish “Fréilénk”)

As in many European countries, Luxembourgers like to play April’s fool tricks on you. It is the well-known 1st of April prank that a lot of people do to their friends. They often use untrue or invented stories, wrong information or funny actions that some people believe to be true. Recently false reports or hoaxes are regularly making their rounds in newspapers or on social media. And often a considerable amount of people believe what they have been told on April 1st.

After all the smiles and laughter, Luxembourgers get ready for the Easter festivities. As a Christian country, Easter is celebrated in Luxembourg either in March or in April. The dates for its celebration fall on different days, taking into account the religious calendar. Indeed, Easter festivities already start a few days before Easter Sunday.

On “Gréngen Donneschden” (Holy Thursday, literally translated as Green Thursday), the day of Jesus’ last supper, a three-day long parade using ratchets starts. It is the longstanding, Christian tradition of “klibberen” (to rattle).

A “Klibber” (ratchet or noisemaker) is a wooden music instrument that children, mainly altar servers, use instead of bells. The legend says that the church’s bells flew to Rome to receive the Easter benediction. Because of their absence, children are in charge of walking through the city while they are shaking their “Klibber”. According to custom, they should pass through the village streets three times a day and invite believers to go to mass. They traditionally shout the following: “D’Moiesklack laut” (“the morning bell rings”, after 6:00), ”d’Mëttesklack laut” (“the midday bell rings”, at 12 o’clock sharp) and “d’Owesklack laut” (“the evening bell rings”, after 18:00).  For their efforts, the children are often rewarded with sweets, eggs and occasionally as well some money on Easter Sunday when they knock on people’s doors and sing: “Dik dik dak, haut ass Ouschterdag! Mirkommen d’Eér ophiewen, déi rout, déi wäiss, déi blo, d’Ouschtere sinn do.” (Dik dik dak, today is Easter! We are here to collect eggs, red ones, white ones, blue ones, it is Easter day!”)

It is interesting to see that the etymology of the Luxembourgish name “Gréngen Donneschden”  has already been analyzed by Luxembourgish writer Edmond de la Fontaine (1823-1891), who explained that it is called like this because of its religious origin: it is the day of Jesus’ last supper and believers should only eat herbal soups and green leafy vegetables on that day.

“Karfreiden” (Good Friday) can be named the fish day par excellence. Tradition wants that people do not eat meat on that day in respect of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. So even if one hasn’t fasted during Lent or even if one doesn’t eat fish the whole year, it is custom that on “Karfreiden” the whole family eats fish, the symbol of Christian faith. Specialties, like “gebackene Fësch” (deep fried fish), grilled sole or “Saumonsquiche” (salmon quiche) are very commonly served in Luxembourgish households.

Like in many Christian countries, Luxembourg celebrates Easter with the traditional Easter lamb and bunny and colored, boiled eggs. Hiding eggs in the garden around the house, so little children can find them, is part of the Easter fun, in addition to enjoying nice and sunny spring weather. Custom has that, even though you can nowadays buy already colored eggs in the supermarket, children help their parents to color and prepare boiled eggs for the “Ouschterhues” (Easter bunny). Most of the time the bunny will hide, together with the eggs and chocolate, some small presents. He mostly brings clothes, whereas the “Kleeschen” (Santa Claus) will shower kids with toys. However, similar to Santa Claus, the ”Ouschterhues” will only bring presents to children who have been obedient.

Also, as an Easter tradition, if a man offered a Pretzel to his sweetheart on “Betzelsonnden” (see the article on March traditions), she is now obliged to give him a chocolate egg in return. However if she doesn’t want to respond to his advances, the man will probably get an empty basket, symbol of the woman’s rejection. Thus also the Luxembourgish expression “de Kuerf kréien”, which means to be given the basket.

Lastly, on Easter Monday is taking place the “Emaischen”, a folkloric festival. This market is held in Luxembourg-city (since 1827) and in Nospelt (since 1957), a city in South-Western Luxembourg. The name “Emaischen” has also a religious connotation and can be traced back to the biblical city of Emmaus, where Jesus appeared to two of his apostles after his resurrection. Folklore dances, traditional Luxembourgish food and drinks, and activities for kids attract hundreds of visitors every year. However the highlight of the market constitutes the “Péckvillecher”, clay whistles shaped like birds. Ceramic artists and potters sell these famous and world-known “Péckvillecher”, which were traditionally only exchanged between lovers, but have gained more and more popularity in recent years acquiring high collector’s value.