The Head of State

The National Day

On 23 June, Luxembourg celebrates the Grand Duke’s birthday, which is also commonly referred to as the National Day. This celebration includes more formal and traditional acts, such as a military parade and a religious service called Te Deum. It is also a celebration where the entire population is involved, with a torchlight procession and a great fireworks display in the capital. Read on to learn about the history of this special day.

Feu d'artifice sur le pont Adolphe
© Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The Grand Ducal Family watches the fireworks display on the Adolphe Bridge

Although nowadays, 23 June is set as the Luxemburg National Day, the date has actually changed many times. The country has celebrated the sovereign’s birthday since the 18th century and this tradition was maintained after Luxembourg became a sovereign state in 1815. The date on which Luxembourg celebrates its National Day has therefore changed with every reign:

  • From 1816 onwards, Luxemburgers celebrated the anniversary of the birth of King Grand Duke William I on 24 April.
  • Under William II, National Day was celebrated on 6 December.
  • Under William III, the birthday was celebrated on 17 June, and from 1860 onwards it changed to 19 February.
  • After Grand Duke Adolphe's accession to the Throne in 1890, the National Day was on 24 July.
  • Under Guillaume IV, it took place on 22 April.
  • Under Marie-Adélaïde, the festivities took place on 14 June from 1913 onwards.
  • When Grand Duchess Charlotte acceded the throne in 1919, 23 January became National Day. In 1947, the day of the celebration of the Grand Duchess’ birthday was declared a public holiday.

The official day of celebrating the sovereign’s birthday was eventually changed to 23 June in 1961 by Grand Ducal order, which was maintained under the successive reigns of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duke Henri. The term 'National Day’ actually does not appear in any legal texts: it is referred to as 'the day of the official celebration of the anniversary of the Grand Duke’s birth’. Luxembourgers commonly call it either 'Groussherzogsgebuertsdag’ (the birthday of the Grand Duke) or 'Nationalfeierdag’ (National Day).

The celebrations start even before National Day itself. The Grand Ducal Family celebrates with the population through a series of receptions and events.

Every year, the Grand Duke awards people of merit the decorations of the Ordre civil et militaire d’Adolphe de Nassau.

Receptions at Berg Castle

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess invite members of Luxemburgish society to two large receptions in the garden of Berg Castle to start or finish the National Day festivities.

TT.RR.HH. the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess - Garden Party © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue
Prince Felix, Garden Party at Berg Castle © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue
Princess Alexandra - Garden Party at Berg Castle © Cour grand-ducale / Lynn Theisen
Garden Party 2018 © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

Garden party - June 2018

Garden Party 2018 © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

Garten Party, june 2018

 

The celebrations on the eve of National Day

The festivities begin on the evening of 22 June with the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess visiting a town outside the capital. The Crown Prince and Princess traditionally visit the second largest city in the country, Esch-sur-Alzette. The members of the Grand Ducal Family then attend the torchlight procession, organised by the various associations of Luxembourg City, and the great fireworks display.

Visit on the eve of National Day of Bourscheid Castle © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Every year the couple visits a different town in the country on the eve of National Day. In 2019, they were in Bourscheid.

Visit on the eve of National Day of Bourscheid Castle © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess enjoy themselves with the children at Bourscheid Castle on the eve of National Day

Visit on the eve of National Day of the City of Esch-sur-Alzette © SIP / Jean-Christophe Verhaegen

The Hereditary Grand Duchess greets the inhabitants of Esch-sur-Alzette, the country's second largest city, on the eve of National Day

The eve of National Day at the City of Esch-sur-Alzette © SIP / Jean-Christophe Verhaegen

Prince Guillaume and Princess Stéphanie at the campfire of the Luxembourg scouts on the eve of National Day

The torchlight procession on the eve of National Day © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess on their way to attend the torchlight procession

The eve of National Day - Torchlight procession © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The procession marches past the official grandstand

The eve of National Day- Adolphe Bridge fireworks © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The traditional fireworks display on National Day, launched from Adolphe Bridge

The eve of National Day - Adolphe Bridge fireworks © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The traditional fireworks display on National Day, launched from Adolphe Bridge

The eve of National Day - Adolphe Bridge fireworks © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The traditional fireworks display on National Day, launched from Adolphe Bridge

 

National Day

On 23 June, the festivities begin with a celebration at the Luxembourg Philharmonie at the invitation of the Government, where the Grand Duke, the President of the Parliament and the Prime Minister give a speech in the presence of the national authorities and diplomatic representatives of the countries accredited to Luxembourg. After the traditional military parade, a religious service called Te Deum is held in the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg.

The National Day military parade © Cour grand-ducale / Claude Piscitelli

The National Day military parade, 23 June 2019

Ceremony of the National Day at the Philharmonie - arrival of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

Ceremony of the National Day at the Philharmonie - arrival of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess on the forecourt.

National Day ceremony at the Philharmonie - Guillaume & Stéphanie © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

National Day ceremony at the Philharmonie - arrival of Prince Guillaume and Princess Stéphanie

Ceremony of the National Day at the Philharmonie - Louis & Félix © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

National Day ceremony at the Philharmonie - arrival of Prince Louis and Prince Félix

Ceremony of the National Day at the Philharmonie - Sébastien & Alexandra © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

National Day ceremony at the Philharmonie - arrival of Prince Sébastien and Princess Alexandra

National Day ceremony at the Philharmonie - Traditional speech of the Grand Duke © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

The Grand Duke gives his traditional speech on the occasion of the National Day at the Philharmonie

National Day - Te Deum service © Cour grand-ducale / Sophie Margue

In the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg, the Grand-Ducal Family attends the solemn Te Deum service, in the presence of the civil and military authorities and heads of diplomatic missions

 

The national anthem

While the Luxembourg coat of arms and flag are legally protected since 1972, the national anthem of the Grand Duchy had not been enshrined in law until 1993, when the Government decided to confirm the legal status of these national symbols, thus protecting them from unauthorised use.

With the law of 27 July 1993, the law of 23 June 1972 was supplemented by an appendix containing the text and melody of the national anthem. Henceforth the first and last stanzas of the song 'Ons Hémecht’ (Our Homeland) of 1859 form Luxembourg’s national anthem. The lyrics are by Michel Lentz. Jean-Antoine Zinnen set them to music. It was first publicly performed at a great ceremony in Ettelbruck in 1864.

Far from being a rousing war song, like the 'Marseillaise’ for example, Luxembourg’s anthem makes a vibrant appeal for peace.

Listen

The national anthem 'Ons Heemecht' (Ons Heemecht)

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ONS HEEMECHT

Luxembourgish version

Wou d’Uelzecht durech d’Wisen zéit,
Duerch d’Fielsen d’Sauer brëcht.
Wou d’Rief laanscht d’Musel dofteg bléit,
Den Himmel Wäin ons mëcht.
Dat as onst Land, fir dat mir géif,
Heinidden alles won.
Ons Heemechtsland, dat mir sou déif
An onsen Hierzer dron.

O Du do uewen, deem séng Hand
Duurch d’Welt d’Natioune leet.
Behitt Du d’Lëtzebuerger Land
Vru friemem Joch a Leed!
Du hues ons all als Kanner schon
de fräie Geescht jo gin.
Looss viru blénken d’Fräiheetssonn
déi mir sou laang gesin.

Text: Michel Lentz
Music: J.A.Zinnen

English translation of the Luxembourg’s national anthem

Where the Alzette slowly flows,
The Sura plays wild pranks,
Where fragrant vineyards amply grow
On the Mosella’s banks;
There lies the land for which we would
Dare everything down here,
Our own, our native land which ranks
Deeply in our hearts!

O Thou above whose powerful hand
Makes States or lays them low,
Protect this Luxembourger land
From foreign yoke and woe.
Your spirit of liberty bestow
On us now as of yore.
Let Freedom’s sun in glory glow
For now and evermore.

Translation: Nicholas E. Weydert / 1929