Source: Ville de Luxembourg website, Saint Nicolas in Luxembourg
Cultural integration

Saint Nicolas traditions and celebration in Luxembourg

We will explore the historical roots of this beloved figure, examine the unique events that unfold in Luxembourg in celebration of Saint Nicolas, and unravel the fascinating connections between Saint Nicolas and the festive season of Christmas.

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The Fiesta de San Nicolás, a cherished European celebration centered around Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of children, comes to life each December 6th. This enchanting tradition, with its medieval origins, holds a special place in the hearts of many European countries, including Luxembourg.

During these festivities, Saint Nicolas rewards well-behaved children with gifts and treats. However, an intriguing twist to this story is the presence of a stern companion who plays the role of the enforcer, punishing those who have strayed from the path of good behavior.

The Saint Nicolas Tradition in Luxembourg

Saint Nicolas, known as "Kleeschen" in Luxembourg, is a cherished and eagerly anticipated traditional celebration for children in the Grand Duchy. Each year, on the 6th of December, the excitement reaches its peak as Kleeschen, the Luxembourgish incarnation of Saint Nicolas, arrives bearing gifts. However, the tale takes a delightful twist with the ominous presence of "Père Fouettard," or "Houseker" in Luxembourgish, a character draped in a long black coat, a towering hood, and imposing boots. His role is less enchanting, for he leaves twigs instead of sweets for the children who haven't been on their best behavior.

The significance of this celebration in Luxembourg is profound. The anticipation begins well before the 6th of December.

Throughout late November, children place their slippers outside their bedroom doors each evening, hoping to receive sweets from Kleeschen.
On the night between the 5th and 6th of December, the true treasures arrive: toys and treats for those who have been good.
For those who've been a tad naughty, Houseker leaves behind twigs as a gentle reminder to mend their ways.
Kleeschen visits
In the days leading up to the 6th of December, Kleeschen visits entire classrooms and schools.

This traditions is a testament to the enchanting fusion of folklore and holiday spirit that warms the hearts of Luxembourg's children and families alike. The Saint Nicolas holds such importance that the Ministry of National Education has designated it as a public holiday for elementary school children.

As children in state schools don't have classes on December 6, be prepared to keep your youngsters at home that day!

Historical roots of Saint Nicolas

The historical roots of Saint Nicolas can be traced back to Saint Nicholas of Bari, who was born around 265 or 270 AD in Patara, a prominent port in the Roman province of Lycia, located in what is now modern-day Turkey. Hailing from a wealthy family, he displayed early piety and generosity, nurtured by his devout Christian parents. After their passing, Nicholas inherited a substantial fortune, which he wholeheartedly dedicated to aiding the less fortunate. Upon his parents' demise, he distributed his wealth among the impoverished and relocated to Mira (Anatolia, present-day Turkey).


His consecration as a bishop is shrouded in a peculiar legend. During a dispute among priests and bishops over the selection of the next bishop to replace the deceased one, they decided that the next priest to enter the temple would assume the role. By an extraordinary twist of fate, Nicholas of Bari was the first to enter the temple and thus became the chosen one.

Bishop of Myra

Nicholas of Bari served as the bishop of Myra. However, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, he was exiled and imprisoned. Following his release in 325 AD, he actively participated in the First Council of Nicaea and passed away in Myra on December 6, 343 AD.
The Legend of Saint Nicholas and the Children in the Salt Cellar
Origings of the Tradition in Luxembourg

Events in Luxembourg correlated with the St. Nicolas

Numerous events and activities are organized in Luxembourg, honoring the tradition of Saint Nicolas. These celebrations showcase the deep-rooted customs and significance of this revered figure in the country's cultural heritage.


During this heartwarming tradition, Saint Nicolas enjoys a delightful concert prepared by the various classes, and parents are encouraged to attend as well. The children serenade him with traditional Saint Nicolas songs, including the renowned "Leiwe Kleeschen."

Following the enchanting performance, Saint Nicolas generously distributes sweets and goodies. As a token of his goodwill, the children depart with bags brimming with treats and gingerbread delights. This cherished school visit by Saint Nicolas adds an extra touch of magic to the holiday season in Luxembourg.


The Saint Nicolas celebrations are marked by lively processions in towns across the Greater Region. In Luxembourg City, the Saint-Nicolas parade commences from the Central Railway Station on the Sunday preceding the 6th of December. It winds its way through the enchanting Christmas Markets, eventually reaching the Upper City.

The jubilation extends to other Luxembourgish towns such as Esch-sur-Alzette and Dudelange, as well as neighboring border towns like Metz in France and Arlon in Belgium, all of which organize their own Saint Nicolas processions. Children eagerly trail Saint Nicolas's float, collecting sweets and treats along the route. These festive parades create an atmosphere of joy and togetherness, making it a cherished moment for families throughout the region.

In 2023, the capital's festive procession is scheduled for December 3, running from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. For additional information, you can visit the city's official website

How St. Nicolas is connected to Christmas

The fascinating metamorphosis of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus, the symbol of Christmas, is a story that dates back to the early 17th century.

English-friendly name

In 1809, the writer Washington Irving penned a satirical history of New York, where he playfully distorted the Dutch saint, Sinterklaas, into the more English-friendly name, Santa Claus. Later, in 1823, poet Clement Moore crafted a poem known as "The Night Before Christmas," breathing life into the modern Santa Claus myth based on Irving's character. The poem narrated the arrival of Saint Nicolas, a plump and jolly elf who descended from the sky in a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer, delivering gifts to children on the night of December 24th to 25th.

Iconic appearance

Around 1863, Santa Claus took on the iconic appearance we know today, thanks to Swedish illustrator Thomas Nast. He portrayed the character in his Christmas illustrations for Harper's Weekly, featuring the figure with a rotund frame, a white beard, and the signature red outfit with tall boots and cap. Nast's rendition became so popular that Santa Claus began appearing in various children's magazines.

Creative interpretations

In the following decades, Santa Claus evolved through the creative interpretations of illustrators and the imaginative stories crafted by writers. By 1885, it was firmly established that this benevolent figure hailed not from the heavens but from the North Pole, where he operated a toy factory. These depictions gradually became ingrained in the American collective consciousness, as did the tradition of gift-giving on December 25th.

Sundblom's advertising campaigns accentuated Santa's jovial and friendly demeanor, cementing the image of the contemporary Santa Claus. This portrayal quickly captured the hearts of people across the United States.

Today, in Luxembourg, Saint Nicolas and Santa Claus share both the holiday season, embodying the convergence of timeless traditions and modern influences. The enchanting duality of these figures mirrors the rich tapestry of Luxembourg's festive celebrations, honoring both its historical roots and its openness to the wider world.

Find out more about Christmas traditions in Luxembourg
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When is Saint Nicolas celebrated in Luxembourg

What are the key traditions associated with Saint Nicolas in Luxembourg

Who is Houseker, and what is his role in the Saint Nicolas celebration

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