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<head profile="http://dublincore.org/documents/dcqhtml/" resource="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23927021" typeof="rnews:NewsItem"> <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" /> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> <title>BBC News - Luxembourg&#039;s hopping heritage</title> <meta name="Description" content="Despite centuries of foreign domination, wars and disease, Luxembourgers have never stopped hopping to the tune of a polka, in honour of their British patron saint."/> <meta property="rnews:description" content="Despite centuries of foreign domination, wars and disease, Luxembourgers have never stopped hopping to the tune of a polka, in honour of their British patron saint."/> <meta name="OriginalPublicationDate" content="2013/09/03 00:35:58"/> <meta property="rnews:datePublished" content="2013/09/03 00:35:58"/> <meta name="UKFS_URL" content="/news/magazine-23927021"/> <meta name="THUMBNAIL_URL" content="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69607000/jpg/_696 07355_ap571602151638_dance624.jpg"/> <meta property="rnews:thumbnailUrl" content="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69607000/jpg/_696 07355_ap571602151638_dance624.jpg"/> <meta name="Headline" content="Luxembourg keeps on hopping"/> <meta property="rnews:headline" content="Luxembourg keeps on hopping"/> <meta name="IFS_URL" content="/news/magazine-23927021"/> <meta name="Section" content="Magazine"/> <meta name="contentFlavor" content="STORY"/> <meta name="CPS_ID" content="23927021" />


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<div class="layout-block-a"> <div class="story-body"> <span class="story-date"> <span class="date">2 September 2013</span> <span class="time-text">Last updated at </span><span class="time">20:35 ET</span> </span> <div id="page-bookmark-links-head" class="share-help"> <h3>Share this page</h3> <ul> <li class="delicious"> <a title="Post this story to Delicious" href="http://del.icio.us/post? url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine23927021&amp;title=BBC+News+-+Luxembourg %27s+hopping+heritage">Delicious</a> </li> <li class="digg"> <a title="Post this story to Digg" href="http://digg.com/submit?


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<h1 class="story-header">Luxembourg&#039;s hopping heritage</h1>

<span class="byline"> <span class="byline-name">By Nina Lamparski</span> <span class="byline-title">BBC News, Echternach</span> </span> <div class="caption full-width"> <img src="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69610000/jpg/_6961059 4_ap571602151638_dance624.jpg" width="624" height="381" alt="Dancers in Echtnernach" /> </div> <div class="embedded-hyper"> <a class="hidden" href="#story_continues_1">Continue reading the main story</a>

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</div> </div> <p class="introduction" id="story_continues_1">Luxembourg is one of Europe&#039;s smallest countries, bordered by two of its largest - Germany and France. This may be one reason why its national character is, for many people, hard to pin down. Could a peculiar religious dance hold a clue?</p> <p>Despite centuries of foreign domination, wars and disease, Luxembourgers have never stopped hopping - a bouncy dance to the tune of a polka, in honour of their British patron saint.</p> <p>For a religious ceremony, it&#039;s a surprisingly joyful occasion. It has also been a gesture of defiance to all those, often foreigners, who have tried to put a stop to the tradition, and in some cases threatened Luxembourg&#039;s survival as a country.</p> <p>Now it&#039;s Europe&#039;s largest traditional dancing procession, held on Whit Tuesday, when some 10,000 hoppers converge on the city of Echternach, along with up to 40,000 spectators.</p> <p>The hero of the occasion is St Willibrord, the socalled Apostle of Benelux, an Anglo-Saxon missionary from Ripon in North Yorkshire, who is credited with driving paganism out of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the 8th Century.</p> <div class="story-feature wide "> <a class="hidden" href="#story_continues_2">Continue reading the main story</a> <h2>Saint Willibrord (658-739 AD)</h2> <!-- pullout-items--> <div class="caption body-narrow-width"> <img src="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69605000/jpg/_6960558


2_ap030610027_tomb304.jpg" width="304" height="304" alt="Tomb of St Willibrord" /> </div> <!-- pullout-body--> <ul> <li> Northumbrian missionary educated at Ripon Abbey and Rathmelsigi in Ireland</li> <li> Sent by St Egbert to convert North Germanic tribes to Christianity</li> <li> Founded the Abbey of Echternach in 698 and was interred there after his death</li> <li> Revered as a healer of epilepsy and nervous diseases</li> </ul> <!-- pullout-links--> </div> <p id="story_continues_2">Pilgrims have been flocking to his tomb in Echternach abbey since the Middle Ages. Exactly when the hopping began is unclear, but the Catholic Church viewed it as a pagan ritual, and was the first to impose a ban.</p> <p>&quot;They were suspicious because the event was created by the people for the people,&quot; says Theo Peporte, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Luxembourg.</p> <p>&quot;They weren&#039;t sure if it was based on folklore or part of proper religious rites.&quot; </p> <p>The Luxembourgers paid no notice, and continued happily hopping until, centuries later, the Church came round to their point of view.</p> <p>&quot;Eventually the Church understood that the hopping was to be taken seriously as a form of physical prayer and meditation. And today, the archbishop of Luxembourg actually leads the procession,&quot; says Peporte.</p> <p>The dance starts early in the morning in the courtyard of the abbey founded by Willibrord in 698 AD, and slowly moves around the town centre.</p> <p>From tiny toddlers to octogenarians with walking sticks, the participants are split into 45 groups containing rows of five dancers.</p> <!-- Embedding the video player --> <!-- This is the embedded player component -->


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<!-- END - companion banner --> <!-- caption --> <p class="caption">Hopping along with the celebration of St Willibrord</p> <!-- END - caption -->


</div> <!-- end of the embedded player component --> <!-- Player embedded --> <p>Most are dressed in simple white tops and black skirts or trousers. Fancy dress and national dress are not allowed. </p> <div class="story-feature narrow"> <a class="hidden" href="#story_continues_3">Continue reading the main story</a> <h2 class="quote">&ldquo;<span>Start Quote</span></h2> <blockquote><p class="first-child">While we Luxembourgers do a simple hop, German pilgrims swing their legs more energetically&rdquo;</p></blockquote> <span class="endquote">End Quote</span> <span class="quote-credit">Pierre Kauthen</span> <span class="quote-credit-title">Willibrord Society president</span> </div> <p id="story_continues_3">&quot;You are watching a procession, not a folklore performance, so please show restraint. No clapping, please!&quot; warns a small notice in a brochure distributed to spectators.</p> <p>A marching band starts up a catchy polka tune, which is played over and over again until the procession ends a few hours later, inside the abbey&#039;s crypt.</p> <p>Once a multi-step affair involving backwards jumps, the modern version of the dance is quite simple - a little jump to the right, a little jump to the left, and hop you go.</p> <p>&quot;You can learn that in 10 seconds,&quot; says Peporte.</p> <p>&quot;What&#039;s harder is to remain synchronised with the others. That&#039;s the tricky part.&quot;</p> <p>The secret, he reveals, is a handkerchief. The dancers in each row hold on to a folded cloth, &quot;which helps to connect people and ensures harmonious hopping&quot;.</p> <div class="story-feature wide "> <a class="hidden" href="#story_continues_4">Continue reading the main story</a> <h2>Luxembourg in a nutshell</h2> <!-- pullout-items--> <div class="caption body-narrow-width"> <img src="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69605000/gif/_6960558 7_luxembourg_echternach_0913.gif" width="304" height="171" alt="Map of Luxembourg" /> </div>


<!-- pullout-body--> <ul> <li> Grand Duchy founded in 963 AD</li> <li> Spanish, French, Belgians, German and Dutch clawed away at the Duchy at one time or another, shrinking it to a quarter of its original size</li> <li> In the 1830s alone, more than half of Luxembourg was transferred to Belgium</li> <li> National motto: &quot;We want to remain what we are&quot;</li> </ul> <!-- pullout-links--> </div> <p id="story_continues_4">To the novice observer, the moving crowds seem to morph into one large bouncy mass. </p> <p>But the expert eye will quickly spot subtle regional differences, says Pierre Kauthen, the president of the Willibrord Society, which organises the procession.</p> <p>&quot;While we Luxembourgers do a simple hop, German pilgrims swing their legs more energetically and throw them a little higher,&quot; he explains.</p> <p>&quot;Belgians are more relaxed about it and take two little steps.&quot;</p> <p>Others followed the church in trying to ban the procession. One attempt was made by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and another, a couple of centuries later, by the Nazis.</p> <p>But in 1941, a group secretly hopped inside the abbey, despite the German prohibition. The act of defiance led to imprisonments and &quot;that was that for the procession&quot;, says Kauthen, &quot;but only until the war was over&quot;.</p> <p>The sound of retreating Nazi marching boots was still echoing through the bombed streets of Echternach, when its residents crowded into the streets in 1945. </p> <div class="caption body-narrow-width"> <img src="http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69607000/jpg/_6960735 3_ap03061001035_abbey304.jpg" width="304" height="380" alt="Echternach abbey" /> <span style="width:304px;">Outside the abbey, on hopping day</span> </div> <p>Accompanied by harmonicas and flutes, they skipped through the rubble of the basilica, which had been blown up by the Germans shortly before Luxembourg&#039;s liberation.</p> <p>A Franciscan monk at this year&#039;s procession


recalled joining the first post-war procession as a schoolboy.</p> <p>&quot;It was very gloomy and depressing on the one hand, because the whole town lay in ruins after the Battle of the Bulge,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&quot;The abbey was destroyed and looked horrendous. But there was a real spirit of determination in the air, and that was definitely expressed in our hopping.&quot;</p> <p>In many ways, the procession is testimony to Luxembourg&#039;s national motto: &quot;We want to remain what we are&quot; (or &quot;Mir welle bleiwe wat mir sin&quot;).</p> <p>So much so, in fact, that the Willibrord Society fought long and hard to get the tradition protected by Unesco.</p> <p>In 2010, the hopping parade was finally inscribed on Unesco&#039;s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.</p> <div class="story-feature wide "> <a class="hidden" href="#story_continues_5">Continue reading the main story</a> <h2>Origins of the hop</h2> <!-- pullout-items--> <!-- pullout-body--> <ul> <li> Legend has it that the people of Echternach wanted to hang a violinist and steal his land, so he put a curse on them, forcing them to jig for all eternity - only Willibrord could break the spell</li> <li> A more plausible theory is that the procession began as a penance march prompted by the plague and other diseases ravaging Europe in the Middle Ages</li> <li> &quot;They thought Willibrord was a healer - the pilgrimage was a form of asking for protection, hoping that would get rid of sickness and misfortune,&quot; says Pierre Kauthen of the Willibrord Society</li> </ul> <!-- pullout-links--> </div> <p id="story_continues_5">The convention safeguards creative practices handed down from generation to generation, which communities and groups recognise as part of their cultural heritage. </p> <p>&quot;It also means that the government has committed itself to enshrine the procession in its legislation,&quot; says Mr Kauthen, one of the main figures behind the Unesco campaign.</p> <p>&quot;As a result, Whit Tuesdays will always have to be a bank holiday for schoolchildren, which is very important.


Because if the teenagers and children don&#039;t come, neither will their parents, and that could spell the the end for the hopping.&quot;</p> <p>For the mayor of Luxembourg City, Xavier Bettel, the event represents an essential cornerstone of local tradition.</p> <p>With foreigners making up two-thirds of those living in the &quot;melting-pot capital&quot;, he sees it as one of the only remaining features of Luxembourgish culture.</p> <p>&quot;Let&#039;s be honest, this isn&#039;t just about faith and many of those attending aren&#039;t necessarily Catholic,&quot; he says.</p> <p>&quot;We are a tiny country and there aren&#039;t a lot of things left that bind us as a people. We have our languages but otherwise not much else. So it&#039;s important that this survives.&quot; </p>

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