Bearli fiercely proud of his Swiss Poppy holds his flag on August 1st bottom center; bottom right courtesy of Gerry Hofstetter; top and bottom left courtesy of google.
Swiss Independence Day, possibly the biggest national holiday in Switzerland. It unifies the country with tiny paper flags, colored eggs, grilled viel bratwurst, and magnificent fireworks displays with lake, mountains or both as the backdrop. What is less obvious, from whom are, were, the Swiss gaining independence?
According to My Switzerland, since 1891, the first of August has been celebrated as Swiss National Day. The date refers to a historic alliance concluded in 1291 by the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. Basically, claiming their own independence.
For me, this day gives way to an unusual display of pride. My experience is that the Swiss, which I myself became in 2017, are generally a subdued bunch. Patriotism is shown by voting, buying local, and following Federer. My husband insists I am un-Swiss if I do not vote every time and with CH in the world cup this year he reminded me it was my civic duty to watch, I admit I did not (neither do I watch American football).
Then there is the matter of language. There are 4 national languages; German, French, Italian, and Romansch and as a rule most Swiss speak a minimum of three languages, often including English. At the same time, as eloquently expressed the BBC article Switzerland’s Invisible Linguistic Borders, these languages in themselves create borders and per the national culture, it is un-Swiss to brag about these linguistic abilities and these borders do not inhibit the united will of the nation.
The first time I celebrated August 1st with my, then boyfriend, I was impressed with the festivities, flags flying, grills going and of course the view of the fireworks from our terrace over the lake. What struck me then, and still strikes me now, the unity of the day. While the 4th of July in America has become to me like a moment where we all seem to remember that we are all part of the same country; August 1st in Switzerland strikes me as a moment where the will to be one nation, which is a fundamental part of the fabric of the country, is celebrated with a momentary burst of enthusiasm and color.