Anyway, since I decided to participate in this annual Christian ritual, I figured I might as well learn more about the religious customs here in Luxembourg. Besides, having missed the Buergbrennen (an event that I was actually very interested in seeing, but the timing just wasn't in the cards) I really wanted to learn more about the local customs. To start, the majority of the Luxembourg population is Catholic (by most recent estimates, about 87%), so many of the country's celebrated holidays are religious holidays recognized by the Roman Catholic church. Furthermore, many festivals hold some level of religious significance.
The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday when many Christian attend church and receive the ashen cross on their foreheads, a symbol of repentance. The Buergbrennan, a celebration that centers around a huge bonfire, follows on the first Sunday following Ash Wednesday. This festival originated with pagan feasts that coincided with the spring solstice. Based on old traditions, the festival celebrated the end of winter. It began as a simple bonfire made of wood and straw, but over time a central pillar of tree branches (now days last year's Christmas trees are often used) and a cross were added. Now, I know what many people might be thinking - (trust me, most Americans I have spoken to who have witnessed this event have had the same thoughts!) the addition of the cross just hits a little too close to home - particularly for Southerners. I have read several blog posts that mention the eerie feeling folks have had when they have attended the event. However, if you just keep in mind the accurate symbolism and the fact that it is viewed as a Christian based ritual on the first Sunday of Lent, those other images of the American South quickly dissipate. One other interesting fact about this celebration is that the fire has traditionally been set by the last man (originally only men were allowed to celebrate at this event) or couple to wed. Needless to say, the local fire departments are also actively involved in this celebration!
|Pretzels for Bretzelsonndeg|
This being leap year, the second recognized celebration has an interesting "twist". Bretzelsonndeg, or Pretzel Sunday, is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday. Traditionally, boys will give their girlfriends pretzels or pretzel-shaped cakes, with the size of the pretzel reflecting the size of his admiration. In return, a girl shows her interest by giving the boy a decorated egg on Easter, with the size of the egg also reflecting the size of her admiration. Now, since 2012 is a leap year, the tradition is reversed and girls give the boys pretzels - à la Sadie Hawkins style. I have quickly learned that every celebration here (at least, in Luxembourg) seems to involve some kind of pastry! Every grocery store, boulangerie, patiserie, etc. is now fully stocked with sweetened versions of this interesting tradition, in various sizes of course. I had also been wondering about the eggs since I just saw those at the local Del Haize grocery store this weekend. Well, I couldn't resist. I did buy a couple for the boys in the family (Joe assured me that he in fact did NOT need a large one to know how much I love him :) I couldn't help it - I am a sucker for new traditions and how could I possibly pass on one that involves pastries (thank goodness I didn't give those up for Lent!)