Like every other country in the world, Switzerland has a reputation which is often somewhat cliched. The world believes that the Swiss are punctual, they are neutral and they make good “Chääs” and “Schoggi”. All true of course, but did you know that Switzerland also has great festivals? Why not go to such a festival and learn Swiss German whilst you’re having fun?

Aside from the usual Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, etc, where Mr and Mrs “Schwiizer” might go to church (“Chille”), there are other interesting festivals and holidays that are well worth experiencing. We would like to introduce you to some of the more known festivals in Switzerland. These offer the perfect opportunity to travel around the country a bit and pick up some Swiss German whilst soaking up some culture.


Fasnacht - perfekter Ort um Schweizerdeutsch zu lernen
Fasnacht – the perfect time to learn Swiss German

“Fasnacht”, like similar festivals in other countries, has its origins in Catholicism. It takes place at the beginning of Lent and kicks off the period of fasting before Easter. Many Swiss cities celebrate this holiday extensively. The Basel Fasnacht is known in the local dialect as “Die drey scheenste Dääg” because it is 72 hours of non stop festivities with colourful costumes, loud “Guggemusig” and lot’s of fun. Baslers might need a holiday after the festival just to recover from all the fun and games! Not quite as famous as the Basler Fasnacht, the “Lozärner Fasnacht” still has a lot to offer and are just as much  “Narren” as in Basel. Both festivities are certainly worth a visit and a good opportunity to practise some Swiss German.

Festivals in Zurich

Zürich - interessante Feste
Zurich – interesting festivals

Another opportunity to learn Swiss German is at the “Zürifäscht”. This festival takes place every three years all along the shores of Lake Zurich. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from both Switzerland and abroad gather to celebrate this festival against the gorgeous backdrop of the lake. The next “Zürifäscht” will be held in July 2019: don’t miss it!

If you don’t want to wait that long for an opportunity to practise your Swiss German at a festival in Zurich, come and see the “Sechsilüüte”. This festival of guilds takes place every spring and it’s a delight to watch the “Zünfter” in their traditional clothing celebrate this holiday. A major happening at this event is the burning of the “Böögg” at the “Sechsilüüteplatz”. The burning “Böögg”, an effigy of a snowman, is watched carefully until its head explodes. According to the superstition, the longer the “Böögg” burns, the worse the summer will be.

The origins of Switzerland

On the 1st of August, the whole of Switzerland celebrates the Swiss National Day locally just referred to as “erscht Augste”. Festivities abound all over the country, not just in the cities of Basel, Lucerne and Zurich. The Swiss flag is raised; Cervelats are thrown onto the barbecue; candles and lampions imprinted with the “Schwiizerchrüüz” are lit; and fireworks prepared for the night. Families, friends and acquaintances all meet up to enjoy the fantastic display of fireworks and maybe even to let off some of their own.

Feuerwerk - erster August
Fireworks on the 1st of August

This is what you need to celebrate properly:  a Swiss flag, a few lampions and  fireworks.

In some places, you might hear the words of the National Anthem” Trittst im Morgenrot daher….” being bellowed out. Although the anthem might be sung in High German, there is no better day to practise your Swiss German than on National Day.

Every village has its “erscht Augste” festivities, but the ultimate celebration is at the “Rütli”, a mountain meadow in the canton of Uri where the first three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden came together to form the beginnings of the nation with the “Rütlischwur”. What could be more appropriate than learning Swiss German at the very place the nation was born?

Other events

Basler Herbstmesse
Basler Herbstmesse

Every year in autumn, there is a huge funfair in Basel: The Basler Herbstmesse, or in Swiss German “d’Herbschtmäss”.  Over a million visitors from both Switzerland and abroad flock to the countless market stalls as well as to the “Chilbi” which features all kinds of daring and not so daring rides. The fun lasts for 16 days and some would prefer it to go on for longer! It is said that the market has its origins in medieval times – what better place to learn the traditional language of Swiss German!

Zurich, too, offers plenty of fun in autumn. Every September, the traditional “Knabeschüsse” takes place with the festivites going on from Saturday through Monday. The main event of this festival is, as the name would imply, “schüsse”. Young people between the ages of 13 to 17 take part in the shooting competition with automatic rifles. Until 1991, the competition was only open to boys; hence the name “Knabeschüsse”. However, since then, girls have not only competed, but also won the competition six times! The shooting range is at the  Albisgüetli where there are many food stalls, carousels and much more. It should be easy to practise your Swiss German here.

These and the many other events that take place in Switzerland are the perfect places to practise the Swiss German you have learnt on our courses. Swiss people are very appreciative when foreigners try to speak in their language and will love helping you practise Swiss German.

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If you would like some more tips on how to learn the language playfully, click here.

Festivals and holidays in Switzerland
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