August 1 – that one day where the skies light up and sparkle at sundown, noise levels go up by many a decibel, and the Swiss at heart come out to celebrate the making of this country. Find out more about the rural ways to commemorate this day.

August 1, the Swiss National Day (German: Schweizer Bundesfeiertag; French: Fête nationale suisse; Italian: Festa nazionale svizzera; Romansh: Fiasta naziunala svizra) is when the three Alpine cantons  (Schwyz, Uri and Unterwald) swore the oath of confederation”, an action which later came to be regarded as the foundation of Switzerland.” (reference: Wikipedia).

That said, it obviously implies that August 1 is the most important holiday in the country. In the rural areas, you clearly see this as a day when patriotism and the intent to celebrate soars, spreading joy and cheer.

In Zurich Oberland, it is common for the ‘Gemeinde’ to send out information pertaining to the Swiss National Day celebrations as soon as in June-July.

The ‘Gemeindeverein’ (local voluntary association) and restaurants get involved. The traditional cuisine of “G’hacktes mit Hörnli und öpfel-muess” (minced meat with Hörnli and applesauce), dessert and ice-cream must be made or ordered  – enough to feed the village and delicious enough to be remembered until the next time. The lanterns and the torches for the kids need to be made available.

The foresters are at work. There has to be enough wood to have a huge, crackling bonfire that lasts through midnight. The wood needs to be dry and ready to catch fire without splintering – and all of it needs to be heaped into a neat, high pile before the celebrations kick in.

Planning, scheduling, timing – everything has to be taken care of. After all, this is not just another holiday!

August 1 – let the celebrations begin


The local populace gathers at the designated area at 19:00. In fact, you can see the people walking with kids, prams, parents and grandparents already by 18:30 or even earlier to ensure that they are punctual on arrival, if not 10 minutes before time.

The members of the ‘Gemeinderat’ are usually present to receive their residents in a  cordial and friendly manner, inviting them to the traditional meal that has been organised. An eminent person from the village is usually invited to give a short speech. Dinner is followed by dessert and coffee. The kids are excited about what is to come! They file outside the dining area to get their torches and lanterns. At 21:30, the locals march through the prominent lanes of the village with their torches held high and a band that keeps them going right till the point they reach the clearing where the woodpile awaits them. All set to be lit with flames that reach out to the skies.

Within a matter of minutes, you see rockets and firecrackers of all kinds and colours, sound levels and speeds lighting up the skies. There are no boundaries. There is no ego. There is no ‘mine’ and ‘yours’. Everyone comes together to share their crackers, laughter, joy and the spirit of freedom!

That’s how the real Switzerland celebrates its formation and its pledge to be one nation – like in India, Switzerland also exemplifies unity in diversity; albeit on a relatively smaller size.

(Photos courtesy: &

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