Swiss National Day

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Swiss National Day
Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg
Official nameGerman: Bundesfeiertag
French: Fête nationale
Italian: Festa nazionale
Also calledFirst of August
Observed bySwitzerland
SignificanceAnniversary of the Federal Charter of 1291
Date1st August
Next time1 August 2023 (2023-08-01)

The Swiss National Day (German: Schweizer Bundesfeiertag; French: Fête nationale suisse; Italian: Festa nazionale svizzera; Romansh: Festa naziunala svizra) is the national holiday of Switzerland, set on 1 August. Although the founding of the Swiss Confederacy was first celebrated on this date in 1891 and annually since 1899, it has only been an official holiday since 1994.[1]


The date is inspired by the date of the Federal Charter of 1291, Pacte du Rütli, placed in "early August",[2] when "three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation" (Schwyz, Uri and Unterwald), an action which later came to be regarded as the founding of Switzerland."[3] The document is one of several dozen pacts attested for the territory of Switzerland in the period of the mid-13th to mid-14th century. The foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy had been mostly associated with the Bund of Brunnen of 1315, or with the Rütlischwur, dated to 1307 by Aegidius Tschudi. The Federal Charter of 1291 first assumed great importance in a report by the Federal Department of Home Affairs of 21 November 1889, suggesting a celebration in Bern in 1891 that would combine the city's 700th anniversary with the Confederacy's 600th anniversary. The date of the Federal Charter came to replace the formerly more prominent, traditional date of 8 November Rütlischwur, 1307 in popular consciousness in the 20th century, specifically after the 650th anniversary celebrations of 1941.[4][5]

It has been an official holiday since 1994, following the acceptance of a federal popular initiative in its favour in 1993.

1 August is celebrated each year with paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags, and fireworks.[3]

Town-specific celebrations[edit]

Fireworks in Basel

The day of independence is typically celebrated at a local municipality level, though certain events draw nationwide attention. Since the mid-19th century, Schaffhausen has illuminated the nearby 25-meter-high Rhine Falls for special events. Beginning in 1920, the waterfall has been regularly lit for the national holiday and since 1966 is now lit only for this holiday.[6] At the historic location of Rütli Meadow above Lake Lucerne, a representational celebration is staged in the location where the legendary pledge of alliance, the Rütlischwur is said to have taken place. In Basel there are fireworks at the Rhine on the evening of 31 July.[7]

Celebrations around the world[edit]

Until 2013, the largest Swiss National Day event in the USA was organized and held annually by the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York. Usually held in Manhattan, the event draws thousands of Swiss, Swiss-Americans and Friends of Switzerland from around New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The event was held at the group's former hospice in Mount Kisco, New York during the 1970s.

Since, 2014 the event format has changed with the motto Back to the roots. It is a great family event again where one can enjoy everything ranging from Swiss sausages to Raclette, Swiss wine, bands, a DJ and kids' corner. Since 2014, the event has been organized by the Swiss Society of New York, the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York and the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.

Celebrations are also held in Washington, District of Columbia by the Swiss Club of Washington D.C. on the Swiss Embassy grounds, in Monterey County, California at the Swiss Rifle Club, at the Newark Swiss Park in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier in Swiss Park. The Swiss Park celebration features Swiss cultural events and games, including a crossbow competition.[citation needed]

In Britain it is also Yorkshire Day, celebrating the county of Yorkshire. Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, founded in 1919 by a Swiss baker, celebrate both of these days in its 6 cafe-tearooms across Yorkshire. For the National celebration, a festival is usually held every year, two Saturdays before the actual 1 August date to allow an opportunity for Swiss families based in the UK to attend prior to the long August summer break. Typically Swiss National Day is held at University College London, organised by the Swiss National Day London Committee, an independent group of volunteers, with the support of the Swiss Embassy London and other Swiss clubs such as City Swiss Club, New Helvetic Society and Unione Ticinese.

Mont Sutton Quebec hosts one of the largest Swiss National Day celebrations outside Switzerland. Each year, it features one canton, with food and products from that canton.[8]


  1. ^ "1891: Der 1. August wird zum Bundesfeiertag erklärt" [1891: 1 August is declared a federal holiday] (in German). Swiss Pro Patria Foundation. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  2. ^ "The Federal Charter of 1291". The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b "National Day". Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  4. ^ The Federal Charter of 1291 and the Founding of the Swiss State
  5. ^ Flashback 125 NL – The first Swiss National Day
  6. ^ "Rhine Falls big fireworks display: "Fire on the rocks!"". Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Swiss National Day on the Rhine 2016". Kanton Basel-Stadt. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Swiss National Holiday Celebration". Federation of Swiss Societies in Eastern Canada. Retrieved 31 July 2017.

External links[edit]