15 August is Assumption Day in Luxembourg. According to the Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken up into heaven by God on this day, which is why in Luxembourgish the day is also known as Maria klamm op, which translates as Mary goes up, orMariä Himmelfaart, a synonymous expression borrowed from the German language.
The day is also known under the names of Léiffrawëschdag, Léiffrakrautdag or Krautwëschdag in Luxembourg, a harvest festival with pre-Christian origins. The festival consists of the blessing of a Wësch or a sheaf, made up of different herbs.
The traditional blessing is only carried out in a few small villages including Greiveldange, a picturesque village on the Moselle.
Léiffrawëschdag in Greiveldange
On 15 August, Greiveldange becomes a place of celebration, where local residents meet over a glass of wine. The a.s.b.l. (non-profit) Greiweldenger Leit organises events for visitors. After a mass in which the Wësch is blessed, the group Crazy Cube play a concert to invite visitors to enjoy an apéritif. Then Lëtzeborger Kascht, which translates as Luxembourg dishes, are served, accompanied, of course, by wine and crémant from local wine estates and producers.
With events and music in the streets of the village, demonstrations of work and games from days gone by, and national and international folklore groups in action, there's bound to be a great atmosphere. The market offering regional produce and handicrafts is already almost a tradition in itself. Finally, at 17.00, the presenters Rol Girres and Lisa Mariotto will invite residents and visitors to dance. And it's all free of charge!
The origins of the tradition
Traditionally, the blessing of the herbs, documented as early as the 6th century AD, involved the priest blessing bunches of herbs (Wësch) brought to church by members of the congregation for that purpose. The number of herbs used to be limited to less than a dozen. Over time, however, this rule was relaxed and the bunch included more and more plants, provided they – whether allegedly or actually – possessed medicinal properties and exuded a strong smell. Once the Virgin Mary was elected patron saint of the country in 1678, the blessing of the herbs was accompanied by a procession in her honour.