The meaning of 1 August, Switzerland’s national day, and where people celebrate
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) Go back to 1291 for the source of this holiday that recalls a day in early August, over 700 years ago, when three independent republics signed a pact to protect each other.
That initial agreement paved the road for 26 additional cantons, or federal states, to join what became the Swiss Confederation in 1848.
Forty-three years after the creation of the Confederation the Swiss celebrated for the first time, in Bern in 1891, the signing of the agreement.
It took another 149 years, and a public referendum, before it became a recognized federal holiday in 1994.
How the Swiss celebrate their national day
It is a “new holiday” and many traditions are still being formed, so celebrations are mostly organized at a local level without major national events.
The president of the Confederation or one of the members of the Federal Council generally participate in a celebration at the Ruetli meadow – called Gruetli in French and German – which is considered the birthplace of the Swiss Confederation (and a great place for hiking.)
Where to celebrate
The most complete listing of celebrations across Switzerland can be found on the Swiss National Tourist Office website. Many events are posted in English but you’ll find more results if you search in French or German.
The GenevaLunch events page also has information on where to see fireworks in cantons Geneva and Vaud, and our news page carries information on fireworks restrictions.
To learn more about the country, as part of your holiday celebrations, the federal web site ch.ch has a wealth of additional information and links to Swiss resources.
And, if you’re feeling weak on knowledge of Swiss politics, geography, culture and history, a new board game in English, Helvetiq, offers 312 question/answer cards to make you an expert. See our GenevaLunch review of the game.
Enjoy the holiday!