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A Short History of this Small Country

The Luxembourg national motto (52.5k jpg) is: "Mir wölle bleiwen wat mir sin" or "We want to remain what we are." Considering the long history of this little country and the intensely independent character of its natives, one can see that it fits very well.

Luxembourg was first established in 963 when Count Siegfried acquired the fortress of Lucilinburhuc from Saint Maximinius Abbey in Trier. It flourished as a Duchy in the medieval Europe for nearly 500 years and the dynasty founded by Siegfried provided some of the leading figures of the German empire in the 14th century. It fell under Burgundian domination in 1443. Over the next 400 years, Spanish, French and Austrian armies took turns occupying the fortified capital. In 1815, after the breakup of the napoleonean empire, Luxembourg became a Grand-Duchy under Dutch ruling and finally regained its independence in 1839.
 Luxembourg Motto

It was occupied during most of the duration of both World Wars but the Luxembourg people resisted and fought valiantly to regain their independence.
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The Language of Luxembourg

If you visit Luxembourg City and enter one of the shops, you may notice that the Luxembourg shopkeepers instantly switch back and forth between several languages as they wait on the foreign tourists. It is quite usual for a native Luxembourger to be fluent in four or five languages. Meanwhile, you may hear them conversing among themselves in a strange German-sounding dialect.

Luxembourg Kids Every Luxembourg child learns German and French beginning in elementary school, but most likely speaks Letzebuergesch as his native tongue at home and while playing with schoolmates. That is why all Luxembourgers are at least trilingual. Many also go on to learn some English, Dutch, Spanish or Italian as well.

Letzebuergesch is a distinct language with Germanic origins that date back at least 1000 years. It has differentiated enough that most German speaking peoples no longer understand it. Technically, it is classified as a West Moselle Frankish dialect and is closely related to various dialects spoken in the neighboring regions of Germany, France and Belgium. Here is a link to an interesting web site by Roger Thijs discussing these various dialects.

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The Echternach Dancing Procession

Fifty days after Easter, on the Tuesday of the week following Whitsuntide or Pentecost, a strange medieval ritual is performed in the village of Echternach. Located on the eastern border of Luxembourg, Echternach is dominated by the Benedictine abbey of saint Willibrord first established there in the seventh century. This abbey, once a medieval scriptorium famous for producing illuminated copies of religious texts, houses the remains of saint Willibrord in its crypt and is the focus of the peculiar "dancing procession".

The unusual custom began in the fourteenth or fifteenth century in connection with the annual tithe processions. People from all parishes under the jurisdiction of the abbey would walk to Echternach during the Whitsuntide holidays bearing their offerings. Historical references mention that pilgrims from the village of Waxweiler would perform a sort of "hopping dance" as they proceeded to the abbey.

Dancing Procession Every Spring on Whit Tuesday, this medieval procession is repeated. Following a pontifical mass, a procession of pilgrims wend their way through the streets of Echternach and back to the tomb of Saint Willibrord in the crypt of the basilica. The participants cover the entire route slowly hopping from one foot to the other in time to an endlessly repeated melody supplied by groups of musicians.

The procession usually includes dozens of musical groups repeating the same ancient melody for hours while several thousand pilgrims perform the hopping dance along the route. This unusual festival draws tens of thousands of spectators.

Here is a midi presentation of the melody played endlessly during the procession: from John Moris' page of ancient Luxembourg music at: .

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