Echternach Dancing Procession of Saint Willibrord
15 Friday Jun 2012
No tags :(
Luxembourg has a lot of festivals and traditions that are different than we have in the U.S. (Like this, for example.) In an attempt to fully experience the culture here, I try to participate when I can, so when I heard about the dancing procession in Echternach where thousands of people turn up to dance with a handkerchief, I had to see what it was all about.
When I first heard about this tradition, I was having lunch with two Luxembourish women. They said the event happens every year on Whit Tuesday, and tons of people fill the streets doing a synchronized dance. I said: ‘Oh, like a Flash Dance!? I’ve always wanted to see one of those in person.’ They just laughed at me. I don’t know if the term Flash Dance exists in Luxembourg, but now that I’ve seen this dancing procession, I realize why they laughed. No, my dear, it is not like a Flash Dance.
The local news outlet reported that the event would take place at 9:30 in the morning. We arrived about an hour early thinking that if there were going to be “tens of thousands of people,” it might be hard to find a place to watch from. When we arrived, it wasn’t apparent where this dancing would occur, but it was clear that something was happening. People were ushering into the city, some with musical instruments others with handkerchiefs; groups of people were dressed in coordinating outfits. Not knowing exactly what would happen and when or where, we grabbed an outdoor table at a cafe and observed. As it got closer to 9:30, we paid for our coffees and followed the stream of people who were heading towards the church. When we got there, people were slowly filing into the church. Some in silence, and some reciting a chant.
Then we went around to the back of the church, and that seemed to be where all the action was happening. People were flushing through the church’s archway. They seemed to be divided in groups; each group consisted of a group of dancers and a band. There seemed to be a leader for each group who carried a number, and when he held up his group’s number, that group’s band would start playing, and that group’s people would start dancing.
The people continued walking on a route through the city. We were told that this parade would continue for the next several hours.
The whole thing was very fascinating to me. First of all, it sort of seemed like any Joe Schmoe from off the street could insert themselves into the line and participate in the proceedings (notice the guy in the first video with the camera who walks in near the lady with the pink sweater). It also reminded me of events and festivals in my hometown — not the event itself, but the small-towny, let’s-all-come-together feeling of it. (Friends of mine who are fellow former high school band members, does this not remind you of old days in the marching band? Ahem, Erin.) In the 1 hour we were there, that little dancing tune started to get very repetitive. I would think that if you did this event year after year, it would quite easily get stuck in your head.
Anyway, in the end, it was cool to see. Definitely not a Flash Dance, but certainly a unique piece of Luxembourg culture, and I appreciate having the opportunity to be there and see it. However, as exhibited at the end of the second video, Willow did not seem to share my sentiment and appeared not overly thrilled over the whole thing.
If you would like a more official explanation of the where, why, and how of this event, they have a website that does a much better job than I of explaining things: www.willibrord.lu.