Klibberen and Émaischen explained
Maunday Thursday saw the start of four days of Klibberen ending on Easter Sunday, whilst Easter Monday is the traditional time to buy a beautifully decorated clay bird whistle, known as a Péckvillercher.
So what’s the story behind these two Luxembourgish traditions, and how can you celebrate them with Digital IKI, an online way to support cultural heritage and traditions during the current Coronavirus restrictions.
It all starts on Green Thursday (Gréngen Donnesdeg), when legend tells that the church bells in Luxembourg fly to Rome to confess their sins to the Pope, leaving the country chime-free for four days until Easter Sunday. This is a rather magical way of keeping to the Christian tradition that neither church organ nor altar bell must sound between Maunday Thursday and Easter Sunday.
Maundy Thursday traditionally marks the date of the Last Supper, and in Luxembourg is known as Green Thursday because it falls in the fasting period for Lent, and herb soup and green vegetables were often on the menu on this day.
So back to the bells. While they seek absolution, children across the Grand Duchy are called upon to break the silence. Klibberen roughly means “to go rattling” and Klibberkanner are encouraged to make lots of noise with rotary ratchets, tower rattles and wooden drums, three times a day to announce the church services.
At 6.00 the noise begins with D’Moiesklack laut (athough I doubt very much that today children are up and roaming the streets at this time), then at 12 noon is D’Mettsklack laut and finally at 18.00 D’Owesklack laut. On Easter Sunday kids sing the song “Dick dick daack, haut ass Ouschterdag” (dik, dik, dak – today is Easter) and roam the streets calling for a reward for their noisy endeavours – in the form of eggs, chocolate or money.
The Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA) has footage of Klibberkanner from 1957 which you can watch from this link.
Tradition comes from social distancing
The tradition apparently gives a nod to an earlier era of social distancing. In the Middle Ages, lepers dressed in black with wide-brimmed hats would walk through the streets carrying a long wooden stick in one outstretched arm, to make sure citizens kept a healthy distance from them. In the other hand they held a “Siechenklappen” or “Klibberen” (rattle) to announce their arrival.
This tradition began in the 19th century, with the oldest written source that refers to it dating back to 1827. Émaischen is thought to be named after the biblical town of Emmaus, where Christ met two apostles after his resurrection.
A Mass for the potter’s brotherhood was celebrated in St Micheal’s Church every Easter Monday, and at the church exit the potters sold little bird whistles known as Péckvillchen (singular Péckvillcher). The modern terracotta versions are specifically made in the village of Nospelt where you’ll find the red clay often synonymous with the whistles.
Often ornately decorated, a Péckvillcher was traditionally made by a potter at the end of the day, to make use of any left-over clay. However, the tradition was said to have died out before the First World War. It was resurrected in 1937 by Jean Peters, a ceramic artist from Reckenthal, who made the whistles from Nospelt clay.
Normally, you’ll find an Easter Sunday Péckvillchen market in Nospelt and one in Luxembourg City at rue Marché-aux-Poissons (where the St Michel's market was moved to in the 19th century). The market is often accompanied by folk dance displays.
Originally exchanged between lovers, today the little clay wonders are considered collectors items.
Éimaischen markets will once again not take place this year due to restrictions, although the bird whistles can be found in some city centre shops and, you can purchase your Péckvillchen online instead. The Peck-Away facility in Nospelt allows you pick up pre-ordered bird whistles together with hot waffles and takeaway BBQ food.
If you've never heard of Émaischen, here's a short video of the festival in Nospelt in 2017.