So you have decided to learn Swiss German? Learning about a language involves more than just understanding the words; it is always good to know about the culture and traditions of the country whose language you are learning. If you plan to emigrate to Switzerland, it is well looked upon if you already know something about the culture. For instance, do you know why the Swiss celebrate 1st August? No? Well, here is „alli Informatione“ (en: all the information) you need to show off your knowledge.

History of the Swiss National Day

1st August – Swiss National Day
1st August – Swiss National Day

At first glance, it seems easy to answer the question of why the Swiss celebrate their national day on 1st August. It is the day Switzerland was founded. However, the history behind this day is a bit more complicated.The 16th century historian, Aegidius Tschudi, set the date of the Rütli Oath (which is the day that the old confederation swore to come together as one country) as 8th November 1307.

So why is this date not the day of Switzerland’s beginning? „Dr Grund“ (en: the reason) for this is simply that the city of Berne was founded in 1191 and the Bernese wanted to celebrate their 700 year anniversary in 1891. It seemed convenient to turn this event into a two day celebration, so they combined it with the 600 year anniversary of the founding „vo dr Schwiiz“ (en: of Switzerland).

The “new” date of 1st August 1291 was contested for quite a while. In many places, 8th November was still celebrated as the country’s birthday at the beginning of the 20th century, but 1st August gained popularity and was well established by the 2nd World War.

1st August has been celebrated as Switzerland’s birthday since 1899 even though the date is historically inaccurate.

How is the Swiss National Day celebrated?

This „Frog“ (en: question) can also be answered by looking to history. The National Day Committee known as “Pro Patria” has existed since the beginning of the 20th century. The committee sold National Day postcards to raise money for charities between 1910 and 1960. Since 1992, sales from 1st August insignia and National Day stamps have been used to finance the upkeep and preservation of heritage buildings and cultural landscapes.

Although 1st August has been designated as National Day „sit em Ändi“ (en: since the end) of the 19th century, it was not a public holiday in every canton. Only in 1994, when the „1. August Initiative“ got through, was it proclaimed to be a national public holiday. Since then, it is a work and school free „Daag“ (en: day) in the whole of Switzerland.


1st August brunch

1st August buns
1st August buns

If you happen to be in Switzerland on 1st August and want to try out your language skills, you should visit one of the farms where they offer a 1st August brunch. This tradition was brought to „Läbä“ (en: life) on the national day in 1993 and has been a feature of the day ever since. Milk, fruit and muesli is served at this brunch as well as 1st August buns that have a cross cut into them before baking. If you are not able to go to a bruch, you can get these rolls (or a larger version as a loaf of bread) in any bakery.

Town decorations

If you are walking through a town or village and are wondering why Swiss, cantonal or commune flags are everywhere, you can assume that it is 1st August. Many Swiss also hang flags outside their houses on this day; in public places, buildings or „Strossä“ (en: roads) it is even obligatory to do so.

Although it is a custom nation-wide to hang the national flag, other National Day traditions vary from place to place.

National Day traditions around the country

National Day fireworks
National Day fireworks

Although 1st August is the National Day, there are no national celebrations as such; the communes celebrate the holiday individually. In some places, people even wear traditional costumes. The celebrations take place in public areas and often include a speech by a famous person as well as a concert by the local musical society. In the „Obe“ (en: evening), all the streets are lit up by children carrying lampions.

Swiss television and radio broadcast the President of the Federal Council’s 1st August speech and local stations may show regional festivities as well. Of course, if you have the „d Möglikeit“ (en: possibility) to go to a celebration in person, it is always more fun than watching it on television.

1st August is the most important holiday of the Swiss Confederation and is celebrated traditionally. Swiss embassies and consulates all over the world invite their compatriots to celebrate together as well.

Now you can show off with your knowledge on the Swiss National Day. It is even better though if you can show off your Swiss German. If you are not yet a member of our community, why not sign up and take the opportunity to practice your Swiss German?

Vocabulary list

Swissgerman English
1 alli Informatione all the information
2 dr Grund the reason
3 vo dr Schwiiz of Switzerland
4 Frog question
5 sit em Ändi since the end
6 Daag day
7 Läbä life
8 Strossä roads
9 Obe evening
10 d Mögligkeit possibility


The Swiss National Day on 1st August
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