August 1st marks the celebration of Swiss National Day. The date is not random; the Federal Charter of 1291, one of the country’s most valuable founding documents, was dated around then. Legend says that in 1291, the first three cantons (Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden) took the Rütlischwur, an oath to form the Swiss Republic (also known as Old Swiss Confederacy).
There are differing opinions regarding the correct date of this event, and it took quite some time (700 years) until August 1st was considered the official Swiss National Day in 1891. In the meantime, several cantons joined the pact, and what was once the Old Swiss Confederacy developed into a federal state.
Today, the Swiss National Day is one of very few holidays that are celebrated in the entire country, as each canton maintains different events at different dates. Some of the traditions maintained on August 1st are the lantern walks (a must-do for families with kids) and the acclaimed fireworks.
Another curiosity is the fact that the Swiss National Day was not considered a public holiday until 1994, meaning that in certain cantons, people did not receive the day off in order to celebrate with friends and family. Today, several cities hold their firework display a day earlier – on July 31st.
Why? Well, so the people can relax and enjoy a full day off instead of having to show up at work right after an exhausting celebration. If that is not a good reason, how about the fact that you get to see firework displays on two consecutive days?
by Mario D.