Following the fireworks and various activities organised on the eve of National Day, the official celebrations kicked off on Thursday morning with the traditional ceremony at Philharmonie Luxembourg.
Present on this occasion were members of the Grand Ducal family, the Luxembourg Government, the Chamber of Deputies (parliament), the Council of State, the judiciary, the municipal council of the City of Luxembourg (Ville de Luxembourg) and the diplomatic service accredited in Luxembourg, as well as members of the public.
The Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg (OPL) and other musicians performed several musical pieces on this occasion, including the Grand Ducal anthem “De Wilhelmus” (Nik Welter), Luxembourg’s national anthem “Ons Heemecht” (Michel Lentz) and other traditional Luxembourgish songs such as “De Feierwon” (Michel Lentz), “Léiwer Herrgotts Blieschen” (traditional Liichtmëssdag, or Candlemas, song), “De Jangli fiert den Houwald erop” (Colette and Fernand Wark), “De groussen Hexemeeschter” (Edmond de la Fontaine “Dicks") and “An Amerika” (Michel Lentz). The musicians also played the European anthem, “Ode to Joy”.
In his speech, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel reiterated his message of solidarity, which he had highlighted in his traditional National Day eve address, referring to the solidarity shown by Luxembourgish society during the COVID-19 pandemic but also towards the people of Ukraine. There was a moment of silence for the victims of the pandemic, followed by a round of applause for healthcare staff, some of whom were in the audience, for their efforts during these challenging few years. The Prime Minister also reflected on his recent visit to Ukraine, stressing that “nothing in this world can justify war”. He added that he would be travelling to Brussels after this afternoon's military parade to participate in the European Council meeting, part of which will be dedicated to a discussion of the latest developments related to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Fernand Etgen, President of the Chamber of Deputies, then addressed the notion of “Heemecht” (homeland), stating that Russia’s attack on Ukraine was “unacceptable” and a reminder of just how fragile our values of democracy, freedom and justice are. He expressed pride that “Luxembourg is an open country”, which has opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees. Like Prime Minister Bettel, Mr Etgen highlighted the important role played by solidarity during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but also in the face of the social and economic consequences of recent developments. The Chamber President described National Day as an occasion to thank everyone for their solidarity and efforts to protect the vulnerable and save lives. “Thank you for not looking away”, he said. He went on to emphasise the importance of a strong European Union (EU), and wished everyone in Luxembourg, and particularly His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri on the occasion of his official birthday, a happy National Day.
The official ceremony continued with the presentation of honorary distinctions, with the Grand Duke awarding Luxembourg orders, medals, crosses or insignia to the following individuals: multilingual British-German-Luxembourgish journalist Philip Crowther; former president of ASTI (a local non-profit organisation supporting migrant workers) Laura Zuccoli; author and 2022 winner of the Servais Prize Guy Helminger; professional table tennis players Ni Xia Lian and Sarah De Nutte; chef and 1989 Bocuse d’Or winner Léa Linster; bus driver Fernand Collet and civilian Ibrahim Ajdarpasic received honorary medals for their acts of courage in saving the life of a man who set himself on fire in Hamilius in Luxembourg-Ville in February 2022.
In his traditional National Day speech, Grand Duke Henri reflected on recent events and their consequences on our lives. He was pleased that the pandemic situation had improved, but expressed sympathy, on behalf of Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess and himself, with COVID-19 victims and their loved ones. He also thanked healthcare workers. He then referred to the war in Ukraine, lamenting the “negation of human rights and democracy”. However, he recalled that the war had brought EU countries closer together. The Grand Duke went on to emphasise the continued importance of climate protection as an “absolute priority”. Looking back, he noted that Luxembourg always overcame past crises and conflicts by working together with its allies. He highlighted the stability of Luxembourg’s institutions and robustness of its economy, as well as its nature as an “open and inclusive [country] where everyone can find their place”, although he recognised that problems do exist. Grand Duke Henri concluded by praising the diversity of Luxembourg, which he felt was “one of the keys of our success”, adding that he was confident that we could master every situation by working together. He wished everyone a happy National Day, on behalf of the Grand Ducal family.
The official ceremony was followed by the traditional 21-gun salute fired in the Grand Duke’s honour at Fetschenhof and the traditional presentation of arms and military parade in Avenue de la Liberté on Thursday afternoon. The military parade featured members of the Luxembourg Army, the Grand Ducal Police, the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps (CGDIS), the SAMU emergency medical service, the Customs and Excise Agency and representatives of the healthcare sector, among others. The fourth edition of the “Arméifest” (army festival), open to the public, was then held in Place de Metz.
The official National Day celebrations will continue with the Te Deum religious service, in the presence of members of the Grand Ducal family, at Notre-Dame Cathedral at 16:30.