Traditions – facts and figures

Traditions and customs are an integral part of everyday life in Switzerland.

Three men with alpenhorns crossing a country road
The long tradition of the alpenhorn © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

  • The historic Battle of Laupen (canton of Bern) in 1339 was the first time a white cross was used to represent Switzerland. Swiss soldiers painted it on to their uniforms to distinguish them from their opponents on the battlefield.
  • The “Swiss Psalm” has been the country’s national anthem since 1961. Before then, it was Rufst du mein Vaterland (When you call us, Fatherland), sung to the same tune as the British national anthem “God Save the Queen”.
  • In 2014, a competition was launched to find a new national anthem.
  • In keeping with UNESCO conventions, Switzerland has drawn up an inventory of its living traditions. So far, there are 167 in all, including “Basler Fasnacht” (Basel carnival) and the “Fête des Vignerons” (winemakers’ festival)  in Vevey.
  • The Swiss National Day is 1 August. On this day, Switzerland commemorates the Federal Charter signed by the ‘Three Forest Cantons’, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, in 1291, in which they swore a bond of brotherhood and agreed to act jointly if their freedoms were threatened by outside aggressors.
  • The Swiss Yodelling Festival is held every three years and attracts around 10,000 yodellers, flag-throwers and alphorn players.
  • “Heidi”, the 19th century children’s book written by Johanna Spyri, has been translated into over 50 languages and been adapted for film many times over.