Buergbrennen

It's time to chase winter away!

On the first Sunday after Carnival, the 'Buergen' (torches) are lit across the Grand Duchy to chase away the winter. Thousands of people attend this traditional festival every year.

A 'Buerg', before being set alight
Claude Piscitelli
The 'Buergen' that are set alight on hilltops throughout the country on the first Sunday after Carnival — Buergsonndeg — are huge stakes with a large cross in the middle.

The materials frequently used include straw, branches and logs. Most of the time, the 'Buergen' are erected by the local young people, who sometimes also organise a torch-lit procession from the village to the 'Buerg', which they then set alight under the supervision of the local fire brigade.

In some places, the honour of lighting the 'Buerg' goes to the most recently married local couple, or to a local celebrity. Thousands of people of all ages meet each year for the Luxembourgish tradition of 'Buergbrennen'.

Its origins

'Burgbrennen', or 'Faaschtefeier' (Lent festival) as some people call it, is a pagan custom.

Since ancient times, the 'Buergbrennen' tradition has been observed around the time of the spring equinox. The blaze symbolises the rebirth of spring and the end of winter, the triumph of warmth over the cold, of light over darkness. Some claim the blaze is a symbolic reminder of the time when witches were burnt at the stake.

Linguists tell us that 'Buerg' has nothing to do with a castle. The etymology of the word comes from the Latin verb 'burere', meaning 'to burn'.

What happens

The event usually starts during the afternoon with the construction of the 'Buerg', followed by a torchlight procession, and ending with the lighting of the fire as darkness falls. Grilled food and traditional dishes including 'Ierzebulli' (pea soup), 'Bouneschlupp' (green bean soup) and 'Glühwäin' (mulled wine) are served.

(Source: BRAUN, Josy. 'Traditions and festivals' in: Lëtzebuerg. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Information and Press Service. 2007.)

  • Updated 28-02-2017