Politicians celebrated the August 1 National Day with speeches urging the Swiss to unite in the face of expected economic hardships. The soaring value of the Swiss franc means there could be trouble ahead for many businesses.

 

"/> Politicians celebrated the August 1 National Day with speeches urging the Swiss to unite in the face of expected economic hardships. The soaring value of the Swiss franc means there could be trouble ahead for many businesses.

 

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NATIONAL DAY

Politicians appeal for Swiss unity on National Day

Politicians celebrated the August 1 National Day with speeches urging the Swiss to unite in the face of expected economic hardships. The soaring value of the Swiss franc means there could be trouble ahead for many businesses.

 

Politicians appeal for Swiss unity on National Day
Andrew Bossi

With national elections twelve weeks away, Swiss politicians lined up over the weekend to use the occasion of National Day to get an early start on their campaigns.

Speeches focussed on a common theme – the Swiss sense of community and how it was going to be needed in the near future. Fulvio Pelli, head of the Free Democratic Party – the third biggest party following the 2007 elections – said that cross-party accord was vital to the stability of the country.

“The FDP will work to maintain the accord, even if it loses one of its two seats on the Federal Council,” Pelli promised on Saturday. “A system of government against oppositions damages direct democracy.”

Christophe Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP) called on the National Council to “wake up” to the problems in many of the countries industries, including tourism. Darbellay claimed that 500 Swiss hotels were currently facing closure because of the climbing value of the Swiss franc.

Johann Schneider-Ammann, who heads the Federal Department on Economic Affairs in the National Council, used his speech to appeal to the Swiss sense of community in order to overcome “these troubled economic times.”

Schneider-Ammann said he wanted to continue in his post after the election, but said he would avoid “trying to please the people with populist or dangerous decisions.” 

Several politicians also used their speeches to touch on relations with the European Union and with foreign communities in Switzerland. Pelli said negotiations with the EU had to be “hard but polite, combative and clever,” and added that asylum laws needed to be better implemented.

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, of the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), said Switzerland’s many national communities needed to find a compromise, and added that the National Day, which celebrates the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291, demonstrated that compromise was a very Swiss trait.

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SWISS TRADITIONS

Swiss National Day: Five things you should know about Switzerland’s ‘birthday’

August 1st is a memorable day for Switzerland, as it celebrates the agreement which made the country as we know it possible. Here is what you need to know about the historical day and the celebrations.

Swiss National Day: Five things you should know about Switzerland's 'birthday'

There are few truly national events in Switzerland, a country marked by its strong federalism, with cantons with specific traditions, cultures, and languages. However, on August 1st, the whole country gets together (but separately) to celebrate Swiss National Day.

So, what is this celebration, and how do the Swiss mark it?

The Federal Charter of 1291

The date was chosen because the Federal Charter of 1291 was signed in “early August” when three cantons (Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwald) signed an oath to form an alliance – the document is now seen as central to the foundation of Switzerland and the reason why many call the Swiss National Day Switzerland’s “birthday”.

One holiday…four names

This being Switzerland, of course, the holiday has a name for each of the country’s official languages. So here is what the celebration is called depending on which canton you live in. German: Schweizer Bundesfeiertag; French: Fête nationale suisse; Italian: Festa nazionale svizzera; Romansh: Festa naziunala svizra.

READ ALSO: Where are fireworks banned on Swiss National Day and where are they permitted?

Different traditions for different regions

As we’ve said, the whole country gets together (but separately) to celebrate Swiss National Day. This means that, not unlike other celebrations and holidays, each canton, city and village will have their own traditions, sometimes quite different from one another.

Some are very famous, like the fireworks at the Rhine set off on the evening of July 31st in Basel. Or the celebration that takes place in Rütli meadow, the historic location just above Lake Lucerne, where the pledge of the alliance was signed.

READ ALSO: Ten brilliant ways to celebrate Swiss National Day

According to Switzerland Tourism: “A special kind of celebration takes place at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the waterfall has been illuminated on special occasions.”

“Since 1920, it has been illuminated regularly on August 1st, and since 1966 exclusively so. On the same day, a magnificent fireworks display also attracts throngs of spectators to this special site.”

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland celebrates its National Day with bonfires and brunch

The firework displays are also very famous in many cantons, though this year many were cancelled as the weather is dry and the risk of wildfires is high.

And although there could be fondue involved, the most typical is for the Swiss to enjoy a nice brunch or a barbecue with their friends and family.

It doesn’t stop people from making jokes, though.

The date has not been a holiday for long

Although the event that led to the celebrations happened hundreds of years ago, it took a long time for the Swiss to decide to celebrate it as a national holiday. At first, the Swiss Confederacy’s founding was celebrated in 1891; only eight years later did it start being celebrated yearly.

And only in 1994 did it become a national non-working holiday after Swiss voters massively approved a popular initiative for a “non-working federal holiday” on the date.

This year the celebrations were a bit different

Due to high temperatures and persisting drought, several cantons and municipalities have banned traditional fireworks on their territory, extending the ban to open fires.

Certain Zurich municipalities have also prohibited this practice, while further cantons indicated they might also ban fireworks should they be unsafe.

As such, private fireworks displays have been ruled out in many parts of the country and public celebrations are also affected.

Of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, some have issued total bans on open-air fires, some have issued bans covering parts of the canton, and some are only permitting fires at Feuerstelle (campfire-style open-air fire pits), and some have only banned fires in forest areas.

Still, the parties have been ongoing, with loads of different celebrations, music, parades, and many events for Switzerland’s birthday.

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