Autumn festivals and customs

Most autumn festivals tie in with the crop and grape harvests.

Stand at the Bern onion market with visitors
Onion market © Switzerland Tourism

Grape harvest festivals

All wine-growing regions in Switzerland have their own way of celebrating their grape harvest. The largest grape harvest festival is held in Neuchâtel at the end of September, and lasts three days. Vevey holds its “Fête des Vignerons” every 25 years. The parades involve a cast of hundreds, including animals. The next “Fête des Vignerons” will be held in 2019.

Bénichon-Chilbi

The canton of Fribourg celebrates with a feast known as “Bénichon” (or “Chilbi” as it is known in German-speaking Switzerland). This harvest thanksgiving festival has become famous chiefly for the eating which goes on, although the programme also includes dancing, parades, plenty of music and all-round merriment. In the lowlands it is held on the second Sunday in September, while the alpine villages celebrate it on the second Sunday in October.

Älplerchilbi (Sennenchilbi)

Central Switzerland, particularly the half-cantons of Nidwalden and Obwalden, are known for their harvest thanksgivings, called “Älplerchilbi” or “Sennenchilbi” (alpine fair), which are traditionally held on the third Sunday in October. The “Älpler” or “Sennen” (farm labourers, usually herders or cheese makers), congregate at the village square and talk about what has happened over the past year, and sometimes even poke fun at well-known locals.

Bern’s Onion Market (Zibelemärit)

One of the highlights of Bern’s year falls on the fourth Monday in November: the onion market or “Zibelemärit” as it is known locally. The city streets are lined with stalls selling braided onions, seasonal vegetables, ceramics, “Magenbrot” (a type of gingerbread) and various other souvenirs.

Unspunnen Festival

The Unspunnen Festival is a celebration of Swiss traditional costumes and alpine pursuits. It is held roughly every 12 years in Interlaken. It honours age-old Swiss traditions like schwingen (Swiss wrestling), yodelling, and the throwing of the 83.5kg Unspunnen stone. The next Unspunnen Festival is scheduled for 2017.

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