Summer festivals and customs

Summer is the time when Switzerland celebrates its National Day (1 August). The ‘Federal Fast Day’ is held in late September.

Alp descent
Alp descent © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

1 August

The 1 August is one of the few truly national festivals. As night falls, bonfires are lit and fireworks set off across the country. In some places, children parade through the street, carrying lanterns decorated with the Swiss cross and their cantonal coat-of-arms.

Federal Fast Day

The Federal Fast Day (“Jeûne federal” (Fr), “Dank-, Buss- und Bettag” (De), “Digiuno federale” (It)) originally a day of prayer and contemplation, is held on the third Sunday of September. It is celebrated everywhere except Geneva, which has its own Fast Day on the Thursday after the first Sunday in September.

Transhumance

At the start and end of summer, the alpine herders put on their finery and festoon their animals with bells and floral crowns. They take their herd up to their mountain pastures for summer and in autumn return, with much fanfare, back down to the valley for winter. This spectacle attracts huge crowds every year.

Swiss Yodelling Festival

The Swiss Yodelling Festival is held every three years. Some 10,000 yodellers, flag-throwers and alphorn players flock to the three-day event, which is held at the start of summer. Brig (canton of Valais) will host the 2017 edition.

Festival of Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Games

The Festival of Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Games is held every three years towards the end of summer and is attended by 50,000 visitors. As well as yodelling and traditional music, the event sees the crowning of the Swiss wrestling king (Schwingerkönig). The most recent festival was held in 2016 in Estavayer-le-Lac (canton of Fribourg).