Saturday, October 24, 2015

Luxarazzi 101: Schueberfouer

Each year in August and September, the Schueberfouer is held on the Glacis Square in the Limpertsberg quarter of the city of Luxembourg. Today a funfair, its history goes way, waaay back. The year is 1298 and Heinrich VII rules as count of Luxembourg when the future King of Germany (since 1308) and Holy Roman Emperor (since 1312) takes the initiative of establishing a fourty-day long summer market in Luxembourg. However, the market soon falls apart.

Guillaume and Stéphanie at
the Schueberfouer in 2015
(Photo: Cour grand-ducale)
So, let's fast forward to 1340: Heinrich VII’s son, Jean (known as John the Blind, Jean l’Aveugle or Jang de Blannen in different languages), is ruling as count of Luxembourg and king of Bohemia. Following his father’s example, he decides to create a grand market in Luxembourg that will draw merchants of all kinds from surrounding areas to sell their products. And so on October 20, he decreed that a market lasting eight days should be held. Jean decided that the market should coincide with the eve of Saint Bartholomew’s feast day, opening the 23 of August and closing on the 31st at noon.

The market established by the ruler of the House of Luxembourg soon became a huge hit both with the merchants and the population. Merchants from abroad paid a fixed fee to participate with no additional customs duties and no taxes on sales. In addition, Jean guaranteed their protection - and the protection of their goods - while they participated in the market plus a seven days before and after.

Archduchess Marie-Astrid in the 1960's
(Photo: Sibenaler / Luxemburger Wort)
Already since its beginning, the market was known as Schueberfouer. The name is believed to be derived from the name of the market place where it was first held: the Schuedbuerg, today's Plateau du St Esprit. Another theory links it to the German word Schober, or barn in English, in turn linking it to its original purpose. For hundreds of years, everything from agricultural products and livestock to cloth, pottery and other household items was sold at the Schueberfouer.

The fair was moved in 1610 to the Glacis, a huge open space beyond the westward fortifications of Luxembourg City, after the Limpertsberg wood had been removed to improve the defensive capabilities of the city. Already during the 18th century, shows and games became part of the fair but it was not until the early 20th century that it became the funfair the Schoeberfouer is known as today. With the year 2015 marking the 675th edition of the fair, it is not only one of the oldest but also one of the biggest of its kind. The Schueberfouer is visited by about two million visitors, four times the number of inhabitants the Grand Duchy has, each year.

Fun(ny) fact: A herd of sheep are the first to officially enter the Schueberfouer on its first day after the opening ceremony ribbon has been cut. They are accompanied by a band, dressed in the traditional blue coat and red scarf of shepherds, playing a tune called Hämmelsmarsch inviting the people to come out an joing the fair. While the origin of the tradition is somewhat of a mystery, historians believe it goes all the way back to the 14th century. The Hämmelsmarsch isn't only played for the Schueberfouer but all throughout Luxembourgish villages and towns whenever a funfair is held.

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