Swiss National Day

The celebrations of the 1st August goes back to the Fedral Charter of the 1st August 1291 when the three Alpine cantons of Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri met in the Rütli field, above Lake Lucerne, to sign an agreement of unification and swear to act jointly if their freedom was threatened by outside aggressors. Today the Rütli field is still the official centre of the 1st August celebrations which is as important to the Swiss as the 4th July to the American people and July 14th, Bastille Day, to the French. Swiss all over the world hold their own celebrations and festivals on this day to participate in Swiss National Day. The day became an official national holiday in 1994. There are bonfires lit and fireworks and, of course, plenty of food and drink to make the celebrations complete. In Switzerland there are processions with children carrying paper lanterns decorated with the Swiss flag or symbols of the Cantons of Switzerland, and the Swiss flag can be seen everywhere flying high over public and private buildings and gardens throughout the land. Bakers also add to the spirit of the occasion with their speciality bread rolls – 1. Augustweggen – topped with small, paper Swiss flags, they also bake a selection of delicious cakes and pastries, the most popular being the strawberry and cream tarts which have the colours of the Swiss flag.

Swiss National Day sees many celebrations being held throughout the cities, towns and villages of Switzerland, one of the most spectacular is that of the Rheinfalls near Schaffhausen where the 25 meter high waterfalls are illuminated and a huge firework display is held above the falls. These celebrations were held here for various special occasions since the mid-nineteenth century but since 1966 it is held exclusively on the 1st August. In Basel there is a firework display held on the Rhein. Bonfires are lit, mainly on elevated positions, to commemorate the expulsion of foreign bailiffs in the 14th century. The bonfires could be seen from far afield and acted as a warning and to spread the news. Legend has it that huge bonfire lit above lakes which mirrored the fires scared the invading troops so much that they thought that they had reached the ends of the earth and were getting a glimpse of hell and therefore retreated.

Some of the many celebrations held around Switzerland on the 1st August or the day before. Some of the celebrations will last for two to four days.-

Schloss Laufen at the Rheinfall. The evening before the National Day, the skies above the Rheinfalls are illuminated with a spectacular firework display and a wonderful way to enjoy this spectacle is to dine in the restaurant at Schloss Laufen which affords a good view in comfort over the waterfalls and display.

Lake Biel Festival. The celebrations begin on the evening of July 31st with the highlight being a gigantic firework display which lights up the summer night’s sky.

Medieval City of Gruyère celebrates over the two days with a host of events going on in the city and the surrounding villages. There are Bonfires, Fireworks, Bars, Barbeques and music which sets the mood for the National Day celebrations. There are also the speeches, official opening and the National anthem, with the mayor and other local dignitaries. The whole proceedings are finished off with a spectacular firework display on the night of 1st August.

Sursee begins it’s celebrations on the evening of the 31st July. There are musical concerts, children’s play area and much more. The fireworks begin just before midnight and herald in the National holiday. Sursee is a beautiful setting to enjoy these wonderful festivities.

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