Why does Luxembourg celebrate its National Day – and thus the official birthday of the Grand Duke – on 23 June? Since the late 18th century the monarch’s birthday has always been celebrated in Luxembourg, even in the 19th century when the King of the Netherlands was still Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Kinneksdag (King’s Day) was celebrated on the date of birth of the Grand Duke. Funny enough in 1840 the day was being held twice. Grand Duke Willem I celebrated his birthday on 24 April, abdicated, and on 6 December was the birthday of the new Grand Duke Willem II. King Willem III, or Grand Duke Guillaume III, celebrated his birthday on 19 February, but in 1850 had the celebrations transferred to 17 June, his wife’s birthday. The reason, according to the Luxembourg Times, was that the date was too close to the date of death of his brother. Meant is Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, who died on 20 February 1848.
Under the reign of Grand Duchess Charlotte, who had her birthday on 23 January – in the midst of the winter – the Groussherzoginsgebuertstag (birthday of the Grand Duchess) in 1947 became a real national holiday. It wasn’t until 1961, only three years before Charlotte’s abdication, that the date was changed into 23 June. The reason was that the weather in June usually was much better than in January. On 23 December 1961 the “day of the official celebration of the anniversary of the birth of the Grand Duke” even was laid down in a grand-ducal decree. So although Grand Duke Jean’s birthday was on 5 January, and Grand Duke Henri’s on 16 April, the Luxembourgish people still celebrate them on 23 June. The program for the day has changed little I suspect, apart from a huge change a few years ago.
Officially the National Day starts on 22 June with a solemn changing of the guard at the Grand-Ducal palace around 4pm. Afterwards the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess usually visit a town in Luxembourg. The Hereditary Grand Duke and his wife do the same, often visiting Esch-sur-Alzette. After they have all returned to Luxembourg-City at 9pm a torchlight procession begins in the streets of the city. And at 11pm a spectacular fireworks from the Pont Adolphe can be seen above the city. While all over Luxembourg an open-air party with music and lots of food starts, the Grand-Ducal family prepares for the next day.
Since 2014 the National Day starts at 10am with an official ceremony at the Philarmonie. Members of the Grand-Ducal family, members of parliament, members of government and representatives of the college of aldermen are present. Honours are being presented and speeched held. The event is not open to the general public. One has to register to participate.
At 11am a 21-gun salute takes place, fired by the cannons at Fetschenhof.
The military parade in the Avenue de la Liberté takes place at 11.30am. The Grand Duke and the Hereditary Grand Duke are present, with their wives. Military troops parade in front of the Grand Duke and several operations aircrafts fly over the avenue.
The Te Deum service – which was until 2013 held in the morning – takes place at 4.30pm at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Also here the Grand-Ducal family is present. The ecumenical mass is being celebrated by the Archbishop of Louxembourg.
In the evening, at 8pm, the Grand-Ducal family receives members of the government, the Chamber of Deputies, the Conseil d’État, representatives of the judicial order and the diplomatic corps. Tiaras and gala dresses can be expected.