Happy Birthday Switzerland and to all the 100’000s of Swiss
who live all around the world!
Solid red square flags with a white cross will be flying everywhere on the 1st of August. Every public and private building as well as homes and chalets will be flying the Swiss flag.
Other flag décor will reign such as the gigantesque Swiss flag which covers the entire “Place de la Palud” in front of the city hall in
Lausanne. Swiss flags and Swiss flag images placed on all types of food and party items will be out for the big day.
Switzerland and its visitors gather in important public places, listening intently to speeches on the events of 1291 which was the beginning of the Swiss Confederation as we know it today. Unlike most countries’ National Day, Switzerland is not celebrating a revolution or a breaking up of a nation but rather, the coming together of different cultures and regional “nationalities”. As most of you know, Switzerland is a delightful composition of the French, the Germans, and the Italians in terms of medieval nationalities and more recently has added many immigrants from Austria, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and many other countries who are residents or who are now naturalised Swiss citizens.
This mix of nations is reflected in the 4 national languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansch (an ancient Roman language still spoken in Eastern Switzerland in Engadine). Three of these languages will always be available for government documents, most businesses and organisations as well as on product labels. August 1 is when they all gather together to celebrate the creation of this tiny Alpine country filled with national pride but also a special multi-national ambience.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about long speeches (yes, they are long and in the regional language). These are usually held in the afternoon or evening in between the many other festivities, barbecues, diverse food and craft stands and the grandiose fireworks everywhere (and I do mean everywhere – just my neighbourhood alone could compete with some small cities). More on where to watch the fireworks displays follows below.
Capital Building in Bern, the centre of patriotism. Image courtesy of Dominique Schreckling
The Swiss celebrate their national day with village and city-wide festivities with children parading through the streets with paper lanterns, Swiss bands, family activities, lakeside beach parties, activities and sports competitions of all sorts. What is the most interesting (and perhaps the most patriotic) is that the Swiss people tend to celebrate in their own village/city/commune and not go to big cities which would have more spectacular events for their own Swiss citizens. But between residents and visitors there are thousands of people attending the festivities in Switzerland’s largest cities (Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Basel, Lausanne and Lugarno). In the North, the main celebrations take place at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen and at the Rueti Meadows along Lake Lucerne. All villages, communes, cities and even private families will have fireworks of various aesthetic degrees. They start after dark (a little after 10:00 PM so find a good vantage point). But they do not always start at the same time on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) so that people can view several displays around the Swiss Alpine lake.
The main fireworks for Geneva Canton will be the city of Geneva (best view at “La Rade” near the “Jet d’eau” fountain. Nearby lakeside towns will also have displays at different times (try positioning yourself uphill on the vineyards of La Cote for a more distant but panoramic view). Similarly, in Lausanne the first and biggest displays are on the shoreline at Ouchy which are shot off of barges out in Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). Then going east, the village of Pully begins their fireworks (and it’s fairly spectacular in itself), and then the village of Cully right afterwards. If you don’t want to be level with the inevitable smoke and crowds of people, choose a vantage point uphill such as the “Parc Montebenon” in the center of Lausanne or the vineyards of Pully, the ancient church terrace at Pully Centre and many other parks around the area even higher up. Another fabulous view is from any of the specially operating CGN ferry boats from either Geneva or Lausanne (or from the boat of new friends?). For the Swiss, the fireworks displays are not just ShowTime. They also symbolize Swiss patriotism and the expulsion of the foreign bailiffs in the Swiss Confederation in the 14th century (a while ago).
Switzerland literally comes alive from Alp to Alp to endless Alp. The Swiss National Day (known here as “premiere août” in French for 1st August) will definitely provide you with a unique occasion celebrated by the Swiss worldwide.
If you’re in Switzerland, you will have an authentic experience of Swiss pride as well as their multi-nationalism…and, no doubt, a taste of the "cervelas", the Swiss National sausage!
Swiss Cervelas Sausage is at All Festivals and Events:
image courtesy of bigbirdz, flickr