News•Lifestyle• 31.10.2017 • Laurence Schaack and Martine Huberty
On 1 November, Luxembourg celebrates All Saints' Day to remember relatives and friends who passed away.
Picture credit: Pexels
As a Catholic country, Luxembourg celebrates All Saints’ Day as an official public holiday. Delano dug a little deeper to find out about the origins and how it is celebrated in the grand duchy.
With the clocks set back and the dark creeping in much faster, the mood seems to be just right to contemplate death. All Saints’ Day has a much longer tradition in Luxembourg than the popular All Hallow’s Eve, better known as Halloween.
How Luxembourg honours the dead
In the week before 1 November, committed citizens put on their rubber boots to brush and scrub marble graves until they are clean. For other graves which have no such luxurious feature, old flower arrangements are replaced with fresh chrysanthemums. Families gather at the graves to remember the deceased. The priest says a few moving words about praying for the dead and how finite life is for everyone, followed by a prayer, and everyone mumbles along. He then proceeds to bless the graves using holy water and incense. The graves on the edges of the rows are especially blessed.
In particular for elderly people, it is an opportunity to showcase their new coats to the family because Sunday preceding All Saints’ Day is the so-called “New Coat Sunday” (Mantelsonndeg). On that day, farmers used to head to the cities to buy a new coat to wear on 1 November when visiting the graves of their dead relatives. Most shops are open on Coat Sunday and it has become one of the few Sundays in the year where consumers can shop to their heart’s content.
Sometimes, a church service precedes or follows the grave consecration.
After the blessing of the graves, and mass, families often have lunch and spend a few hours together.
All Saints’ Day dates back to 13 May 609 when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all Catholic martyrs. The day was moved to November when Pope Gregory III spoke in St Peter’s to honour the martyrs on 1 November in 731.
According to Catholic tradition, All Saints’ Day is dedicated to those that passed away and entered heaven, but who were never publicly declared saints.
Apart from Luxembourg, many other Catholic countries honour the day as a public holiday, including Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania and the Philippines. Mexicans even take three days to remember the dead, starting from 31 October until 2 November. In recent years, the “Dia de los Muertos” have gained in popularity across the globe because of the colourful skeleton images.
In Luxembourg, All Souls’ Day is celebrated on 2 November. In contrast to the previous day, on All Souls’ Day, the country remembers the dead whose souls have not reached heaven yet and are still in purgatory. Superstitious advocates fear the dead might appear as ghosts or animals to redeem their souls.
Whereas the graves are traditionally blessed on 1 November, in some towns it is done on 2 November. Tageblatt has published the dates and times of the consecrations and services (in German).