Summer festivals and customs

Swiss summertime features the Swiss national holiday and the Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer. The cattle is brought up to the alpine pastures or back down to the valley with festive alpine cattle ascents or descents. The Federal Yodelling Festival and the Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival are held every three years, each time at a different location.

Two wrestlers competing in Sägemehl.
At the Federal Swiss Wrestling and Yodelling Festival, the best wrestler in Switzerland emerges, and is crowned the wrestling king. © Pixabay

Switzerland's national holiday – the 1st of August

Switzerland's national holiday, on the 1st of August, is one of the few holidays celebrated throughout the country. When the night falls, people everywhere light bonfires and set off fireworks. In some places, children parade through the streets with lanterns bearing the Swiss cross and their canton's emblem.

The Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer at the end of September

The Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer is a religious holiday celebrated throughout Switzerland in Christian churches and in the Jewish community. It falls on the third Sunday of September. All cantons observe it except for Geneva, which celebrates its Day of Prayer beforehand, at the start of September.

Alpine cattle ascents and descents

At the beginning of each summer, farmers in the mountains take their cows up to the alpine pastures to let the cattle graze on the lush mountain meadows. At the end of the summer, before the snow comes, they bring the cattle back down to the valley. These alpine cattle ascents and descents are important events in the farmers' calendar, so they wear traditional clothing, decorating it and their animals splendidly with flowers and bells. Alpine cattle ascents and descents always attract a large number of spectators. The ascents and descents on the Engstligenalp in the Bernese Highlands is spectacular, with 500 animals forging their way forward on steep mountain paths.

Federal Yodelling Festival

The Federal Yodelling Festival takes place every three years at the beginning of summer. Around 10,000 yodellers, flag-throwers and alphorn players take part in the three-day festival. The melodic happening attracts thousands of visitors. Its most recent edition was in the city of Basel in 2020.

Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival

The Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival is held every three years towards the end of the summer in an arena that accommodates 50,000 spectators. With yodelling and folk music in the air, the Swiss wrestling matches determine which wrestler ('schwinger') is to be crowned king. The Festival's most recent edition was in Zug in 2019.