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LOCATION: Luxembourg
POPULATION: 467,000 (2007)
LANGUAGE: Letzebürgesch, French, and German
RELIGION: Roman Catholic; small numbers of Protestants and Jews


The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a tiny but prosperous nation in western Europe. While Luxembourg's culture has been strongly influenced by both its French- and German-speaking neighbors, the country retains a distinct identity of its own. The Luxembourgers' pride in this identity and in their national traditions is expressed in their motto: Mir woelle bleiwe wat mir sin ("We want to remain what we are").

Luxembourg has been a distinct political entity since ad 963, when Count Sigefroid of the Ardennes built a castle at the present-day site of its capital (also called Luxembourg) and laid claim to the surrounding lands. In 1443 King Philip of Burgundy claimed Luxembourg for France, beginning a 400-year period when Luxembourg was ruled by its powerful neighbors in western Europe, including (in addition to France) Spain and Austria. Luxembourg became an independent, neutral state in 1867 under the Treaty of London, and it has had its own ruling dynasty since 1890, when the crown of the Grand Duchy was transferred to the House of Nassau. With the discovery of iron ore around 1860, the duchy began the transition to a modern, industrialized, and prosperous nation.

In the 20th century, Luxembourg was occupied by the Germans during both world wars. Luxembourgers, who strenuously resisted the Nazi occupiers, suffered the third highest death toll of the war relative to the size of their population, surpassed only by the Soviet Union and Poland. The Battle of the Bulge (1944–45) was to a large extent fought on Luxembourgian soil. After World War II, Luxembourg's government agreed to create an economic union with Belgium and the Netherlands, and full economic union of the Benelux countries was achieved in February of 1958. In April 1963 Luxembourg observed its 1,000-year anniversary. In 2000 Grand Duke Henri became the country's monarch. In addition to the Benelux union, Luxembourg is also a member of NATO, the United Nations, and the European Union.


Luxembourg, with an area of only 998 square miles (2,586 square kilometers), is bordered by Germany on the east and northeast, France on the south, and Belgium on the north and west. The northern third of the country, known as the Oesling, forms part of the Ardennes Mountains, which extend into Germany and Belgium. This forested upland region is dotted with the ruins of many historic castles. Luxembourg's southern two-thirds, called "The Good Land" (Gutland in German and Bon Pays in French), is home to most of Luxembourg's population and contains its most fertile soil as well as its capital city. The Moselle River, to the south, forms Luxembourg's southeastern border.

Luxembourg's population of 467,000 is approx imately three-fourths urban and one-fourth rural, and the rural-to-urban migratory trend is still continuing, especially toward the capital city. Native-born Luxembourgers are mostly of French, German, or Belgian descent. Of all the western European nations, Luxembourg has one of the highest percentage of foreign-born residents. They come mainly from Portugal, Italy, and other southern European countries but also from Luxembourg's neighbors, France, Germany, and Belgium. Many had come to work in the nation's iron and steel mills; others are drawn by jobs in its many international corporations and organizations. As of the 2000s, the industrial sector, initially dominated by steel, has become increasingly diversified to include chemicals, rubber, and other products. Growth in the financial sector accounts for about a third of the country's income, and has more than compensated for the decline in steel.


Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German, and Letzebürgesch, a national dialect based on German with French elements mixed in. The first language of all Luxembourgers, Letzebürgesch is learned in childhood and spoken at home. Although it is primarily an oral rather than a written language, a Letzebürgesch dictionary and grammar were created in 1950, and the language has been accorded official status since 1984. German, which is taught in primary school, is the language of business and the media, while French, taught at the secondary level, is the language of government, used in the civil service and the courts (although German is used in criminal proceedings). All three of the national languages are spoken in Luxembourg's parliament. In addition to their native languages, many Luxembourgers also speak English.


According to legend, Count Sigefroid, the founder of Luxembourg's walled capital city, married a maiden named Mélusine, ignorant of the fact that she was really a mermaid. She reverted to her natural form every Saturday, a time when she had forbidden her husband to look at her. After he broke his promise and saw her, she disappeared into the stone walls of the city, where she is said to remain, returning every seven years in the form of either a beautiful woman or a serpent with a golden key in its mouth. According to the legend, it would be possible to free her by either kissing the woman or removing the key from the serpent's mouth, but no one has ever accomplished either feat. Mélusine is also said to knit an ever-unfinished garment, completing one stitch every year. It is said that if she completes it before she is freed from the wall, all of Luxembourg will supposedly vanish into the rock with her.


About 87% of Luxembourg's population is Roman Catholic, although at least a third of these are non-practicing Catholics. Luxembourg's constitution guarantees religious freedom to its people. In spite of the country's overwhelming Catholic majority, the state supports the spiritual leaders of its Protestant and Jewish minorities—the Official Protestant Pastor and the Chief Rabbi—as well as the nation's Catholic priests. The Lutheran and Calvinist Churches are the largest Protestant denominations. There are an estimated 9,000 Muslims, including 900 refugees from Montenegro; 5,000 Orthodox Christians (Greek, Serbian, Russian, and Romanian); and 1,000 Jews. The Baha'i Faith, the Universal Church, and Jehovah's Witnesses are represented in smaller numbers. There is a small Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) community in Dommeldange, which has been growing since its establishment in 2000. The number of professed atheists is believed to be growing.


Luxembourg's legal holidays are New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day, Whitmonday, National Day (June 23), Assumption Day (August 15), All Saints' Day (November 1), Christmas (December 25), and Boxing Day (December 26). National Day, a patriotic holiday observed with parades, fireworks, and church services, is also celebrated as the official birthday of the nation's monarch, Grand Duke Henri (although his actual birthday is April 16). Luxembourgers also observe a number of local and regional holidays, including St. Bartholemy's Day (August 24), when sheep are driven through the streets of the capital city, and the Broom Parade, held in the city of Wiltz every May when the broom (a bright yellow plant) blossoms. The pre-Lenten festival of Carnival is celebrated in a number of Luxembourg's cities.


Luxembourgers live in a modern, industrialized, Christian country. Hence, many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.


A casual handshake is considered appropriate when greeting both old and new acquaintances. Close friends, particularly female friends, may hug or kiss each other on the cheek three times. Common greetings include Moien ("Good morning"), Gudden Owend ("Good evening"), Wéi geet et? ("How are you?"), and Bonjour ("Good day" in French). On parting, the expression Addi ("Goodbye") and the more formal French Au revoir are used (as well as the casual Salut and Ciao, which are popular with younger Luxembourgians).


Luxembourg enjoys one of the highest standards of living of any nation in the European Community. Housing ranges from traditional rural cottages with thick walls and heavy beams to the modern apartments rented by many urban dwellers. Luxembourg's national health service covers most doctors' fees and hospital expenses. Average life expectancy is 79 years. The leading causes of death—cardiovascular disease, cancer, and automobile accidents—are typical of those in the world's other developed nations.

Luxembourg's small size spares its residents lengthy commutes to work. The country has an excellent transportation network both within its borders and connecting it to its neighbors. There are approximately 3,000 miles (5,108 kilometers) of state and local roads. In the 1990s its highways were linked to those of Belgium, France, and Germany. However, most travel to and from neighboring countries is by rail. The Moselle River provides water transport, and many international airlines provide service to Luxembourg's Findel airport.


The typical Luxembourg household is composed of a nuclear family with one or two children. The importance of family to Luxembourgers is reflected in a national law requiring adults to take a certain degree of financial responsibility for their aging parents. Families in Luxembourg enjoy a high standard of living. Because of their country's small size, parents generally live near their workplace, allowing them additional time to spend with their families enjoying leisure-time pursuits. The comfortable financial circumstances and cosmopolitan outlook of the country's residents have prompted a number of families to adopt orphaned Vietnamese children since the 1960s. Women account for roughly 44.7% of Luxembourg's labor force.


The people of Luxembourg wear modern Western-style clothing like that worn elsewhere in western Europe and in the world's other developed countries. Luxembourgers are particularly influenced by fashion trends in the neighboring countries of France and Germany, and by Italian fashions as well. Women tend to wear skirts and dresses more often than slacks, and the men favor hats. In public, Luxembourgers are always neatly and carefully dressed, whether for formal or casual occasions. Old, worn clothing is reserved for at-home wear and sporting activities.


The cuisine of Luxembourg, influenced by the culinary traditions of its neighbors, has been called a marriage of French sophistication and German abundance. In Luxembourg, as in Germany, hearty appetites and large portions are the norm. Several of the most popular national dishes are made with ham or pork: Ardennes ham, ham stuffed with beans, smoked pork and beans or sauerkraut ( judd mat gaarde-bounen ), suckling pig in aspic ( cochon de lait en gelée ), and meat pies with minced-pork filling ( fleeschtaart ). Other favorites include liver dumplings ( quenelles de foie de veau ), rabbit served in a thick sauce ( civet de lièvre ), and black pudding ( treipen ) and sausages with mashed potatoes and horseradish. During the fishing season, popular entrees include crayfish, trout, pike, and other fish from the Moselle and the country's other rivers. Luxembourg is also known for its delicious pastries, which fill the counters of special pastry shops throughout the country. Plum tarts called quetsch are a seasonal treat in September, and a type of cake called les penseés brouillées is traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday.


Luxembourg's literacy rate is virtually 100%. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. Students begin with six years of primary school followed by up to seven years of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include the Central University of Luxembourg, the Superior Institute of Technology, the International University Institute of Luxembourg, and Sacred Heart University. Many secondary school graduates attend college in the neighboring countries of France, Belgium, and Germany.


The arts are supported by the Grand Ducal Institute. In the visual arts, well-known Luxembourgers include 17th-century sculptor Daniel Muller and 20th-century expressionist painter Joseph Kutter. The National Museum of History and Art exhibits both fine and industrial arts and also houses special collections on the nation's history. Luxembourg's literary figures have written in French (Felix Thyes and Marcel Noppeney), German (Nikolaus Welter and "Batty" Weber), and Letzebürgesch (Michael Rodange). Paul Palgen is the country's most famous poet. Luxembourg also has cultural agreements with several other nations, both in Europe and elsewhere, that bring the finest in music and theater to local stages. The Grand Orchestra of Radiotelevision Luxembourg is world famous. Internationally acclaimed photographer Edward Steichen was a native of Luxembourg.


About 86% of Luxembourg's labor force is employed in the service sector, which includes government, trade, tourism, and financial services. About 13% work in industry, construction, and transportation, and the remainder (about 1%) are engaged in agriculture. In 2007, 121,6000 of the total work force of 205,000 were foreign cross-border workers commuting primarily from France, Belgium, and Germany. Most of them are employed in the banking and insurance industries or in the offices of the European Union. Many Portuguese have worked in the iron and steel industry. Unemployment, which was virtually nonexistent in Luxembourg until the mid-1980s, was around 4.4% in the 2007.


Popular sports in Luxembourg include jogging, tennis, volleyball, and soccer. Pursuits such as hunting, fishing, cycling, and boating allow Luxembourgers to spend their leisure time enjoying their country's scenic landscape. The route of the world's most famous bicycle race, the Tour de France, passes through Luxembourg. The country has 25 national hiking routes (5,000 km) as well as countless other paths and trails, and organized walking tours are a popular activity. Favorite winter sports include cross-country skiing and ice skating.


The people of Luxembourg enjoy socializing in their country's many cafés and pastry shops, and one can often find them engaged in informal chess matches in restaurants and cafés. Luxembourgers enjoy many types of music, including choral and band music and musical theater. The capital city has a folk club, a jazz club, and a society for new music. Virtually every household has a television, and movie theaters show foreign films—including American box office hits—with French or Dutch subtitles. Gardening, hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities are also very popular.


Pottery and other traditional crafts are practiced in Luxembourg. In addition, the Fonderie de Mersch manufactures cast-iron wall plaques that portray local coats-of-arms, scenery, and historic castles. Luxembourg's scenic landscapes are also reproduced on porcelain plates.


Luxembourg is free from many of the social problems that plague other developed nations. In spite of its lack of natural resources, the country enjoys a healthy, stable economy and a high standard of living and has very low unemployment. It is also among the most generous nations in terms of social spending.

However, in the mid-1990s, the country received thousands of asylum seekers from the former Yugoslavia, which made Luxembourg less welcoming to all immigrants. Although political integration—in the form of local voting rights for foreigners—has been rather successful, immigrant children generally perform poorly in school. Also, the country has yet to consider a broad integration program for new arrivals. In 2006, approximately 181,962 foreigners lived in Luxembourg —39.6% of the country's total population. Most of the foreigners are white, European, and Catholic, and of these, Portuguese constitute the majority. About 13% of foreigners are from the former Yugoslavia, the United States, and the former Portuguese colony Cape Verde. Among the foreigners there are about 5,000 Muslims, most of them from the former Yugoslavia. The tightening of border controls since the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the United States had effects in Luxembourg as well. On the eve of the attacks, Luxembourg's small Muslim community was close to obtaining both formal recognition and public financing— already granted to the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, and Jewish communities—when the weekly magazine Le Jeudi accused the country's Muslims of being connected to radical Islamists. There were no openly anti-Islamic reactions, but suspicions developed concerning supposed links between the Luxembourgian Muslim community and radical Islamist organizations.


Luxembourg law prohibits domestic violence. The law is gender neutral and provides that a batterer will be removed from the house for 10 days; this can be extended an additional three months. There is a hot line for battered women. Government-sponsored nongovernmental organization (NGO) shelters provide refuge to women and children. In addition, the government provides financial assistance to domestic violence victims. The government funds organizations that provide shelter, counseling, and hot lines. The law specifically prohibits rape, including spousal rape. The penalties are five to 10 years' imprisonment. Prostitution is legal. The law prohibits sexual harassment.

Under the law, women enjoy the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system. The law mandates equal pay for equal work; however, women are paid 20% to 30% less than men for comparable work. The Ministry of Equal Opportunity is responsible for protecting the legal and social rights of women; in 2005 it began a gender mainstreaming program, which is to assess all government policies in order to determine whether they result in any gender-based disparities. In 2006 the parliament introduced the principle of non-discrimination in the country's legislation. In 2006 there were 13 women in the 60-member Chamber of Deputies and 3 women in the 14-member Council of Ministers. There were 15 women in the 32-member Supreme Court.


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—revised by J. Hobby.

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