The First of August and how it came to be Switzerland’s National Day

What exactly is being celebrated?

The Swiss have been celebrating their National Day – which is a statutory public holiday – since 1891. It is also often referred to simply as the First of August. The date was taken from the Swiss Federal Charter, which was signed “at the beginning of the month of August 1291”. This document marked the alliance between the three Alpine cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, during which they swore eternal allegiance to one another. As a result, they are generally regarded as the three original cantons of the Swiss Confederation.

Who celebrates the occasion?

August 1 is a statutory holiday and a work-free day, thus enabling everyone to celebrate as and how they wish.

Customs and Traditions

  • On Swiss National Day, many people decorate their houses with Swiss flags, and numerous public buildings and streets are also adorned with bunting.
  • Official festivities have been held every year on the Rütli meadow – where, according to legend, the pledge of allegiance was pronounced and the Swiss Confederation was founded – since 1942. The official address is held by the Swiss President and is broadcast on the TV and radio.
  • In many municipalities, special brunches or evening festivities take place, often together with a fireworks display, which is held as soon as it gets dark.
  • In numerous mountainous regions of Switzerland, private persons or societies set fire to huge bonfires in elevated locations, which can be seen from a long distance away.
  • At 8.00pm, all the church bells in Switzerland ring out for a quarter of an hour.

How does Zurich celebrate the First of August?

Find out more here.