The culture of Luxembourg refers to the cultural life and traditions of the small European nation of Luxembourg. Most citizens are trilingual, speaking the Germanic national language of Luxembourgish in addition to French and German. Although its contributions to the arts are little known outside its borders, Luxembourg has a rich cultural history.
Luxembourg art can be traced back to Roman times, especially as depicted in statues found across the country and in the huge mosaic from Vichten. Over the centuries, Luxembourg’s churches and castles have housed a number of cultural artefacts but these are nearly all ascribed to foreign artists. The first examples of art with a national flavour are paintings and maps of the City of Luxembourg and its fortifications from the end of the 16th until the beginning of the 19th century, although these too were mostly created by foreign artists. Real interest in art among the country’s own citizens began in the 19th century with paintings of Luxembourg and the surroundings after the country became a grand duchy in 1815. This was followed by interest in Impressionism and Expressionism in the early 20th century, the richest period in Luxembourg painting, while Abstraction became the focus of art after the Second World War. Today there are a number of successful contemporary artists, some of whom have gained wide international recognition.
The Music of Luxembourg is an important component of the country’s cultural life. The prestigious new Philharmonie concert hall provides an excellent venue for orchestral concerts while opera is frequently presented in the theatres. Rock, pop and jazz are also popular with a number of successful performers. The wide general interest in music and musical activities in Luxembourg can be seen from the membership of the Union Grand-Duc Adolphe, the national music federation for choral societies, brass bands, music schools, theatrical societies, folklore associations and instrumental groups. Some 340 music groups and associations with over 17,000 individual members are currently represented by the organization.
The people of Luxembourg wear modern Western-style clothing. Luxembourgers are influenced by fashion trends in neighboring France and Germany, and by Italian fashions as well. Women tend to wear skirts and dresses more often than slacks, and men favor hats. In public, Luxembourgers are always neatly and carefully dressed. Old, worn clothing is reserved for at-home wear and sporting activities.
Luxembourg has many delicacies including its pastries, cheese, and fresh fish (brown trout, pike, and crayfish). Other delicacies include the Ardennes ham smoked in saltpeter, game during hunting season (such as hare and wild boar), small plum tarts in September (Quetsch), smoked neck of pork with broad beans (Judd mat Gaardebounen), fried small river fish (such as bream, chub, gudgeon, roach, and rudd), liver dumplings (Quenelle) with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, black pudding (Träipen), sausages with mashed potatoes and horseradish, and green bean soup (Bouneschlupp). French cuisine is prominent on many menus, and to a lesser extent so are German and Belgian cuisines.
Language is the most important element of cultural identity for the native-born. Those residents speak, read, and write in French, German, and Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch), switching between them effortlessly. The major newspaper publishes most international news in German, cultural features in French, and classified advertisements in Luxembourgish. The simultaneous use of three languages derives from a combination of historical tradition and economic necessity.
Native residents speak Luxembourgish to each other, and that is the first language infants learn to speak at home. Classified as a Moselle-Franconian dialect of German, Luxembourgish was enriched during the Middle Ages with so many French words and phrases that it is no longer understood by Germans. Traditionally, Luxembourgish was rarely written, and no official rules of spelling and grammar existed until they were established by the government in 1984.
The literature of Luxembourg is little known beyond the country’s borders, partly because Luxembourg authors write in one or more of the three official languages (French, German and Luxembourgish), partly because many works are specifically directed to a local readership. Furthermore, it was not until the 19th century that the literature of Luxembourg began to develop in parallel with growing awareness of the country’s national identity following the Treaty of Paris (1815) and the Treaty of London (1867).
The architecture of Luxembourg probably extends back to the Treveri, a Celtic tribe who prospered in the 1st century BC. A few ruins remain from the Roman occupation but the most significant contributions over the centuries have been the country’s castles and churches. Today there is a veritable architectural boom as Luxembourg’s economic prosperity provides a basis for developments in the financial, EU and cultural sectors with a number of world-class buildings.
Unlike in most countries in Europe, sports in Luxembourg are not concentrated upon a particular national sport, but encompasses a number of sports, both team and individual. Despite the lack of a central sporting focus, over 100,000 people in Luxembourg, which has a total population of only 460,000, are licensed members of one sports federation or another. Football is the most popular sport.
The public holidays are a mix of Christian and secular dates, such as Christmas, New Year’s, and May Day. Luxembourg celebrates National Day on 23 June as the sovereign’s official birthday. The night before (22 June) is festive, with torchlight parades, fireworks, music, and parties. National Day is more ceremonial, including military parades, cannonades, and a “Te Deum” sung in the national cathedral.