National Day

Switzerland celebrates its National Day on 1 August.

Paper lanterns with the Swiss cross
Paper lanterns with the Swiss cross at the Swiss National Day celebrations © Roland Zumbühl picswiss

On 1 August, Switzerland commemorates the signing of the Federal Charter by the founding cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden in 1291, in which they pledged a bond of brotherhood and agreed to act jointly if their freedoms were threatened by outside aggressors. Legend has it that representatives from the three cantons – the three “Eidgenossen” – met on the Rütli meadow, high above Lake Lucerne, and swore to free their land from the Habsburgs. The official celebrations still take place on the Rütli, culminating in a speech to the nation delivered by the President of the Swiss Confederation.

As night falls, bonfires are lit and fireworks set off across the country. In some places, children parade through the streets carrying paper lanterns decorated with the Swiss cross and their canton’s coat-of-arms. Throughout Switzerland 1 August is generally a day for speeches, with politicians at all levels, from federal councillors to local mayors, addressing gatherings.

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