We just celebrated Swiss Day in Switzerland (well, duhh!). August 1st is Switzerland’s national celebration of all things Swiss. It marks the day in 1291 when an oath was sworn, the Rütlischwur, between officials from the Alpine areas of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden and Switzerland was born. August 1st was made an official national holiday only in 1994 but it’s very popular, as far as I can tell. The Swiss celebrate with family and friends gathering, around a grill/bbq, weather permitting. They decorate any surface they can with the design icon of the Swiss flag (seriously, you can buy boiled eggs with the Swiss flad painted on them, bread rolls come with toothpick Swiss flags) and enjoy fireworks when the sun goes down. For days after August 1st, you can hear the sound of kids playing with leftover fireworks and crackers. Most towns, villages and cities organise some official celebration of Swiss day with food and a fireworks display, maybe even a parade of sorts. If you get good weather like we did this year, Swiss day is a joy.
I grew up in Scotland. There isn’t a “Scotland Day” in Scotland, so the idea of national days of celebrating, even after 20+ years, is still novel to me. Of course, we had St Andrew’s Day. To be honest though, even in the catholic schools I attended St Andrew’s day passed by without much fanfare every year. Burns Night is probably the closest we ever got to celebrating Scotland and being Scottish. At school, we would probably be asked to learn one of Burns’ poems ( one year I learned “To a Mountain Daisy“) and would have to recite in in front of our class. Then we might have a bit of haggis & neeps that the school’s dinner ladies would have prepared for us. Not a big deal but at least I remember the date of Burns Day, 25th Jan.
Coincidentally, 25th of January 1991 was the year I left Scotland to go and make a new life in Australia with a handsome Aussie sailor I met at a disco one night. Even more coincidentally, I arrived in Australia on January 26th- Australia Day! Over the next twelve years I learned that Australia Day commemorates the day the First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. Australia Day, much like Swiss Day is celebrated with a day off work, family and friends gatherings, sunshine, barbecued food and fireworks. (Is there a better way to celebrate?) Not everyone celebrates Australia Day, however. It is also known as Invasion Day by the indigenous population of Australia and its supporters for obvious reasons.
I think the most famous national celebration would have to be the world-wide celebrations held for Ireland and all things Irish on St Patrick’s Day. I think we all know about how Irish- Americans have taken St Patrick’s Day to extremes by wearing green, drinking green beer, having massive parades and even turning a rivers and fountains green in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.
New Zealand celebrates Waitangi Day on 6th of February (my wedding anniversary) each year to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. France celebrates Bastille Day and the Germans celebrate German Unity Day on 3rd October to commemorate the reunification of East & West Germany. And of course, we can’t forget 4th July, Independence Day, in the United States of America celebrated with parties and parades across the country.
I’ve loved having experienced the joyous atmosophere of a national holiday to celebrate a nation and its people. Especially when it involves food and fireworks. Do you live in a country which celebrates a national holiday? Or have you celebrated a national holiday with friends featuring lovely customs, food or drink? Please, tell me about it.