Luxembourg's National Day is fast approaching - where did the first half of the year (or even the month) go? - and this year's edition is shaping up to be a very special one. Not only is the Grand Duchy celebrating the official birthday of its head of state but also the 1050th birthday of the city of Luxembourg.
Traditionally, the National Day festivities start on June 22nd with the changing of the guard at the palais grand-ducal. The Hereditary Grand Duke and the Hereditary Grand Duchess will then visit Luxembourg's second biggest town, Esch-sur-Alzette.
To kick off their time in Esch, they will be visiting Belval, a former brownfield turned scientific and cultural centre. As Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume does every year, they will be laying a wreath at the Place de la Résistance afterwards. At about 6pm, they are expected to arrive at the town square to mingle with the people and to have a look at everything that goes on at the public festival taking place every year on the eve of National Day. Usually, the Hereditary Grand Duke and whoever accompanies him round off their visit was a balcony experience. This year will mark Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie premiere at Esch-sur-Alzette.
Meanwhile, Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa will also visit a town in the Grand Duchy. While the Hereditary Grand Duke always visits Esch, the destination of the Grand Ducal Couple's visit changes and I have yet to find out where the day will lead them this year.
In the evening, the Grand Ducal Family will unite to attend the festivities going on in Luxembourg's capital by the same name. At 10:05pm, they will be greeted by mayor Xavier Bettel at the Place Guillaume II where they will be watching the traditional torchlight procession which, on the special occasion of the city's anniversary, will also offer an overview over Luxembourg throughout the centuries. At 11:30 the traditional fireworks over the Pont Adolphe will start.
The actual official National Day celebrations include a thanksgiving mass called Te Deum as well as a military parade on the Avenue de la Liberté. (For more information about the National Day, its history and why it is celebrated have a look at last year's 101 about it.)
RTL's live coverage of the day starts at 10am. The Te Deum at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame is expected to commence at 10:30 and ends at about 11:15. The ecumenical church service is usually attended by a large number of members of the Grand Ducal Family. I'm not holding my breath for an appearance of Prince Felix's fiancée Claire Lademacher (and neither should you). I, however, do hope to see all of Grand Duke Henri's children and his two daughter-in-laws.
While the rest of the family then returns home, Grand Duke Henri, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and, I presume, Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie will also attend the military parade that will start at 11:40 and will also be shown live by RTL. Their coverage of the day's activities ends at 1pm. At 7pm, they will be having a special broadcast about the day's events.
In the evening, the traditional national day gala will be held at the palais. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a) the ladies of the family will dig deep into the jewellery vault and b) we will actually get to see pictures of it.