Federal holiday ( French Fête nationale , Italian Festa nazionale , Rumantsch Grischun Festa naziunala ) is the official name of the national holiday of the Swiss Confederation . The terms 1. August and Bundesfeier are more common in standard Swiss German . It commemorates the Federal Letter , completed in early August 1291.
The day was celebrated for the first time on August 1, 1891, and was repeated annually throughout Switzerland from 1899 onwards . It is a public holiday in Switzerland , but until 1993 it was either a normal working day, half a day or a full day of public rest, depending on the cantons. However, August 1st as the date of the Rütli oath is not historically documented (the historian Aegidius Tschudi set the date of the Rütli oath to the "Wednesday before Martini" 1307, i.e. November 8, 1307 in his Swiss chronicle from the middle of the 16th century ). It was not until the end of the 19th century that August 1st became Switzerland's “birthday”.
The idea of setting the year 1291 as the year the Confederation was founded and August 1st as the federal holiday goes back to the Bernese initiative. In 1891 Bern wanted to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the city. The connection with a 600th anniversary celebration of the Swiss Confederation came in very handy. In the report, which the Department of the Interior prepared for the attention of the Federal Council on November 21, 1889 , a two-day celebration was actually planned in Bern and not in central Switzerland. With the federal letter of 1291 , which laid down the defense agreement between the three original cantons , a document had been chosen that was not undisputed. As early as the 19th century, historians counted 82 documents for the period from 1251 to 1386 with which similar covenants were sealed. In particular, the Bund zu Brunnen of 1315 was considered by many to be the founding act of the Confederation, if one did not assume that the Confederation would come into being step by step.
Aegidius Tschudi's date of the Rütli oath (November 8, 1307) as the birth of the Swiss Confederation was held well into the 20th century . In 1907, the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation was celebrated in Altdorf UR in the presence of a Federal Council delegation. Since then, memories of 1307 as the date of the Rütli oath and thus the year the Swiss Confederation was founded have been lost. In the new national myth, which was coined during the Second World War - among other things with the Rütli report by General Guisan or with the 650th anniversary celebration in 1941 - the Rütli oath myth was more and more associated with August 1st, the Swiss federal holiday established by the Federal Council in 1889.
The Federal Celebration Committee (now Pro Patria ), founded in 1909, began issuing federal celebration postcards in 1910 to raise funds for charitable purposes, for example for the Swiss Red Cross or Mothers Aid. In 1923 the official August 1st badge was added, and in 1938 the federal celebration stamp with a tax surcharge was added as a third means of collection. The federal celebration cards were discontinued in 1960, while the sale of badges and postage stamps by school children continues to this day. Since 1992 the Pro Patria Foundation has supported the preservation and care of cultural landscapes and monuments.
Since July 1, 1994, the Swiss national holiday has been a day off throughout Switzerland, after the Swiss electorate accepted the popular initiative “for a federal holiday ( August 1st initiative )” on September 26, 1993 (cf. Art. 110 para. 3 of the Federal Constitution). Previously, the day only had this status in a few cantons.
In 1993, the August 1st brunch, which has since become a tradition, took place on individual farms for the first time. In 2007 420 farms received a total of 200,000 guests. This farm breakfast mainly offers milk, muesli , fruits, fresh plaited pancakes , August 1st Weggen , cheese, sausage and homemade rösti . The brunch is coordinated by the Swiss Farmers' Association .
The drought and heat in Europe in 2018 ensured that in that year no bonfires and fireworks were allowed to be lit in many places because of the risk of forest fires, as an absolute fire ban was in the open air. As a result of the climate emergency , the city of Olten and the municipality of Stein have already canceled the August 1st 2019 fireworks. In the city of Chur, there is an absolute fire ban due to the persistent drought . The Migros Aare Cooperative has completely stopped selling fireworks since the end of 2018 . The city of Bern has not set off the August 1st fireworks since 2020 .
Festivities and customs on August 1st
Many people decorate their homes with Swiss, cantonal and municipal flags. The flagging of public buildings, streets and squares is required by law in most places.
In the communities there are celebrations in the afternoon or in the evening, with each village cultivating its own traditions . Prayers for the people and the fatherland, singing the national anthem ( Swiss psalm) and ringing bells are usually part of it. In some places traditional costumes are worn. Often a public figure gives a speech and the local music club plays.
In some cities and communities (for example Biel / Bienne ) the official national celebration takes place the evening before, on July 31st. The unofficial "Federal Celebration on the Rhine" has been celebrated on July 31 in Basel since 1993; it is based on the tradition of the earlier "Rhine Night Festival". The local music associations are an integral part of the festival program. There are numerous concerts on the festival site on the Rhine. This extends on the Kleinbasel bank of the Rhine from the Johanniter Bridge to the Wettstein Bridge and in Grossbasel from the Johanniter Bridge to the Middle Bridge and from the Schifflände to the market square. An average of 100,000 visitors from the city and the surrounding area take part in the national celebration. On the Rhine itself, both a rubber dinghy race and the starlight, a charity light campaign for developing countries, are held. The subsequent large fireworks display will be set off on two Rhine ships above and below the Middle Bridge. The official Basel national celebration will take place on August 1st on the Bruderholz .
A national celebration has not become established. Only on the Rütli , according to tradition the “cradle of the Confederation”, has the Swiss Charitable Society (SGG) organized a national celebration since 1942, which is aimed at all residents of Switzerland. In addition, a celebratory radio and television address by the Federal President will be broadcast. In the evenings, the public SRG television programs used to broadcast a federal celebration program from one municipality for the four language regions. For some years now, this program has been called “Lueget vo Berg und Tal” in Swiss German and consists of editorial contributions, through which moderators from the four language regions lead.
In the whole of Switzerland, all church bells ring for a quarter of an hour at 8 p.m. The Swiss National Day is also celebrated at Swiss embassies around the world.
Cross-border national celebration
The Swiss National Day has been celebrated in the divided city of Laufenburg for many years on the border between Switzerland and Germany . At the Old Rhine Bridge, which connects the two parts of the city, the music and dance groups from both countries perform around the border line. Laufenburg was divided into two halves by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801 along the Rhine, the southern part belongs to Switzerland ( Canton Aargau ) and the northern part to Germany ( State of Baden-Württemberg ).
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