This post isn’t about Sao Paulo or Brazil, but I couldn’t help thinking, what if this happened here in Sao Paulo? What fun and how crazy would it get?

Reportedly, in Luxembourg, hundreds of people take to the streets to hop on one particular day every year (Whit Tuesday, after Pentecost begins, several weeks after Easter). It’s a dance they perform in honor of their British patron saint, and they hop to the tune of a polka.

We’re not talking a handful of people here, but rather 10,000 or so. With 40,000 more people watching.


According to the BBC article:

The hero of the occasion is St Willibrord (658-739 AD), the so-called Apostle of Benelux, an Anglo-Saxon missionary from Ripon in North Yorkshire, who is credited with driving paganism out of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the 8th Century.

Pilgrims have been flocking to his tomb in Echternach abbey since the Middle Ages. Exactly when the hopping began is unclear, but the Catholic Church viewed it as a pagan ritual, and was the first to impose a ban.

“They were suspicious because the event was created by the people for the people,” says Theo Peporte, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Luxembourg. “They weren’t sure if it was based on folklore or part of proper religious rites.”

The Luxembourgers paid no notice, and continued happily hopping until, centuries later, the Church came round to their point of view.

Nowadays, the procession continues as a marching band starts up a catchy polka tune, which is played over and over again until the procession ends a few hours later, inside the abbey’s crypt.

Once a multi-step affair involving backwards jumps, the modern version of the dance is quite simple – a little jump to the right, a little jump to the left, and hop you go. The secret to staying synchronized is the handkerchief that people hold, linking two hands.


Origins of the hop

  • Legend has it that the people of Echternach wanted to hang a violinist and steal his land, so he put a curse on them, forcing them to jig for all eternity – only Willibrord could break the spell
  • A more plausible theory is that the procession began as a penance march prompted by the plague and other diseases ravaging Europe in the Middle Ages
  • “They thought Willibrord was a healer – the pilgrimage was a form of asking for protection, hoping that would get rid of sickness and misfortune,” says Pierre Kauthen of the Willibrord Society

Whatever the reason, the Luxembourg hop remains an extremely popular event in a button-down country that doesn’t seem likely to have such a thing. One day, I must be there and hop with the mob.