The Octave, celebrated by Catholics in honor of the Virgin Mary, is the most important religious event of the year in Luxembourg. Each year, the Octave or “Oktav” period begins on the third Sunday after Easter and ends on the fifth Sunday after Easter.
Atraditional festival emblematic of the capital since 1666, the Octave festival is full of history and tradition.
What is the Octave pilgrimage?
The Octave is one of the the most important religious traditions of the country. It is celebrated in the form of a great pilgrimage, lasting two weeks, in honor of Our Lady of Luxembourg. Also known as Mary, the Consoler of the afflicted, Our Lady of Luxembourg is the patron saint of the capital city Luxembourg and of the country, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
For more than 400 years, at the end of the Easter holidays, pilgrims from all over the country and the Greater Region have flocked to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg to honor the Virgin Mary. On this occasion, the statue sculpted in his likeness is decorated and richly dressed. It is then placed in the heart of the cathedral, on an altar specifically reserved for the occasion.
The period of the Octave ends with the passage of the statue of the Virgin Mary, dressed especially for the event, through the streets of the capital. Carried by the faithful, she is accompanied by representatives of the Grand Ducal Family and other public institutions.
If the Octave festival is initially a religious tradition, it also gives place to two weeks of animations in the heart of the capital, the famous “Octave market” (Octavemärtchen).
This year, due to the works on the Knuedler, the market will not take place at the foot of the Luxembourg Cathedral. Lé Mäertchen will be present at the Constitution Square, where the “Gelle Fra”is located.
The Ocatve Market is part of the tradition. Its implementation and development was justified by the presence and needs of pilgrims in the area. They needed to feed themselves for the duration of the pilgrimage. Centuries later, the Octave Market has become a popular and friendly market with the feel of a traditional village festival .
The Octave market attracts more than 90,000 visitors each year. The stands are composed of culinary traders, but also of stalls where you can buy souvenirs and typical gifts.
History of Oktav
The Oktav has its origins in the history of Luxembourg. In 1620, the plague broke out while the country was at war. Misery reigned and the population struggled to get enough to eat. There were many deaths.
Religion and prayers gave people hope in those very dark times. With the boys from the Athenaeum school, one of the Jesuit fathers built a wooden statue of Mary and the baby Jesus. This was placed in a chapel built on the Glacis, at the entrance to the city, so that the whole population could go there to pray to Mary, “Consoler of the afflicted”.
Once a year, the statue was carried through the city to the church near the Athenaeum on the Knuedler, where it remained for a week. This week of recollection and prayer was called Octave. People came from far away to pray to Mary in this church. Offerings were placed on an altar in thanksgiving to Mary and masses were celebrated.
In 1666, while war and disease were still rampant, the notables offered Mary the keys to the city. In 1678, Mary was elected patroness of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Since then, the Octave has continued to attract crowds of pilgrims and the period has been extended to two weeks. Markets appeared around the church of the Knuedler, which has since become the cathedral of Luxembourg, in order to satisfy the people who came from far away for this annual pilgrimage.