Getting involved: Few nationalities celebrate Christmas with as much joie de vivre as the Danes (December is considered “Christmas month”). In Luxembourg, the Danish Church has held an annual holiday market fundraiser for some 20 years.
This year the Danske Kirke (Danish Church) celebrated its 21st anniversary in Luxembourg. There have been many changes since its initial inception, but the annual Julebasar (Christmas bazaar) has always been an important part of the church’s heritage.
“In Denmark the church is funded by the state,” explains its pastor, Vicky Popp. “However, here in Luxembourg, I am the only paid employee, and so we are completely dependent on volunteers. The Julebasar allows us to raise funds for the church and the many active groups that it organises.”
Centre of Danish community
At present, the Danish Church has more than half a dozen active groups encompassing all demographics. “We start with singing hymns for newly born babies,” Vicky says, “to the very active 60+ group who hold social events for retired people. In between there are youth groups, confirmation groups, au pairs and three choirs who sing at our Sunday services.”
Unlike the church in Denmark, Vicky also runs a Danish language and culture club, so that children can learn more about their heritage. “This isn’t a group that you would find in Denmark, but I believe it’s important for young people, perhaps born in Luxembourg, to know a little more about Danish customs and traditions.”
Whilst only 2% of the population in Denmark regularly attends church services, 15% of Danes in Luxembourg are members of the church with the rest of the Danish population usually having some kind of church interaction. The most popular events include the confirmation ceremony held at Pentecost, the annual volunteers’ party and the Christmas bazaar.
This year the Christmas bazaar will take place the third Saturday of November at Halle Victor Hugo. It is only the second year that the bazaar has been held at this location, having previously been located near the vicarage in Cents. The larger space saw the addition of a second hand clothes stand and plenty of extra room for the popular restaurant selling Danish hot dogs, smorgasbord and Æbleskiver (traditional Danish Christmas donuts).
Other stands include the second hand book stall (complete with cosy reading area), handmade Christmas decorations, advent wreaths adorned with candles, tombola, and a bar selling Danish beer, aquavit (an eau de vie) and crémant.
Christmas gifts, lottery
“All the Christmas gifts are handcrafted by our volunteers,” says Vicky. “They are truly artisanal and make excellent presents.”
The Christmas lottery is always a highlight of the event with prizes donated by local and Danish businesses. This year’s prizes include Luxair flights to Denmark and gifts sponsored by Dania in Belair, amongst others. Lottery tickets can be purchased in advance via the Danish Church website with limited numbers available to purchase on the day itself. “The lottery is very traditional,” Vicky adds. “There is a number to ring on the website and a volunteer sends out the tickets by post. It’s become part of the bazaar customs.”
Whilst the majority of visitors to the bazaar are Scandinavian and other expats, more and more Luxembourgers are attending the event. “We hope that because the venue is so central and parking is readily available, we will attract more people.”
In 2014, the bazaar fell on the same day as several other Christmas fairs. However, an impressive €40,000 was raised to support the church and its associations. “This year the date does not coincide with any other large markets,” notes Vicky. “We hope that people who haven’t had the chance to attend before will come along to enjoy the atmosphere and try a hot dog or two.”