On the morning of Whit Tuesday, 30 May 2023, thousands of people gathered in the city of Echternach for the yearly traditional "Sprangprëssessioun" (dancing, or hopping, procession).
The procession is believed to have most likely derived from a pagan rite. It has been documented since the year 1100 and has been passed on until today, despite historical religious and secular authorities’ attempts to ban it.
Around 10,000 people on average attend the hopping procession nowadays, with 7,000 to 8,000 jumping and around 40 musician groups accompanying them, playing a polka melody. This year, the majority were brass bands with drummers but also violinists present.
The people who “hopped” wore white shirts and dark trousers, arranged themselves in rows of five, holding white handkerchiefs between each other, and danced in tune with the melody, hopping two steps to the left and two steps to the right and slowly moving forward.
The groups were neatly organised with assigned group numbers and started hopping one after the other at intervals. The bands and jumping groups were interspersed. Those who did not dance walked the procession either reciting the traditional Litany of St Willibrord or praying the Rosary (in German).
This Echternach tradition is the last remaining Roman Catholic dancing procession in Europe and was included in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010. Before that, in June 2008, Luxembourg added it to its National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The procession takes place in the streets of Echternach in honour of Saint Willibrord, a monk who founded the Echternach Benedictine abbey in the year 698. His tomb is located in the crypt of the papal basilica of the abbey.
Pilgrims and participants started to arrive from 05:00 on Tuesday morning to attend a mass specially organised for the Route-Echternach-Sternwallfahrt participants, followed by a mass open to everyone. The jumping procession started at around 10:00 and it ended at 13:00, followed by a mass in the crypt of the papal basilica, which was planned to end at around 15:00.
The event once again brought together people from all walks of life, of different ages and diverse backgrounds, even with some tourists observing the procession. Whether young pupils with their teachers, older adults, friend groups or families, they gathered in large numbers on this sunny day to hop and celebrate, creating a visible sense of community around them.