Swinging on the dance floor will remain off limits on Good Friday and Christmas Day, but residents who fancy a shuffle now have five extra days on which to bust a move after local authorities had a rethink about their long-standing boogie ban.
For years, the government of canton Neuchâtel, in eastern Switzerland, has been under pressure to change a law many considered out of touch with the modern world. In a statement released this week, Neuchâtel authorities said shaking a leg on religious holidays can no longer be considered “disrespectful”.
Moving rhythmically to the sound of music is still considered a sin on certain days in many parts of Switzerland.
A total of seven cantons ask their residents to turn down the music and put their dancing shoes away for Christian religious holidays, particularly Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Aside from Neuchâtel, dancing on selected holy days is also frowned upon in cantons Uri, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Basel-Landschaft, Solothurn and Appenzell Innerrhoden.
In practice, the ban on jiving means that dance halls and nightclubs are closed on religious holidays. For the most part, the prohibition is restricted to Catholic cantons in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, Neuchâtel being one of the exceptions.
Other cantons have removed the holiday shackles from footloose citizens in recent years. In May 2010, Lucerne decided to lift a five-century long ban on dancing on Christian holidays. A heated debate in parliament ended with 62 votes in favour of lifting the ban and 46 against.
To the socialists, the ban seemed “old-fashioned” whereas the Swiss People Party (SVP) felt “359 days of dancing was enough” and the restrictions were justified out of “respect to Christian culture.”