There is something magical in the Swiss Tradition. This multicultural country is proud of its heritage, so almost every festival cannot go without alphorn, flag- tossing, yodeling and cows. You have probably already seen some or read about some of the largest festivals in Switzerland, but these are not like them. They will show you just how much the Swiss appreciate their culture and heritage. Most of the people yawn at the mere mention of the word “heritage” and “tradition” thinking it will be a boring event, but Swiss do know how to celebrate and these festivals are your opportunity to see and experience it.
TIP: Wherever you are, check the tourist information. You will be surprised to learn how many smaller celebrations take part in the city or village you are in, and that Switzerland is not all about chocolate, cheese, and watches.
1. Eidgenössische Jodelfest
Nothing says “Switzerland” like yodeling. You can hear yodelers at many places and celebration, and there is even a 4-day festival in Brig- Glis dedicated to it. This festival is held at the end of the June every three years. It doesn’t only gather yodelers from every part of Switzerland, there are many international groups that take part in this competition too. The fact that it lasts for three days tell you just how big this manifestation is, and how many yodelers are out there.
2. Alpine Cattle Descent
This unique event takes part in lots of cities and villages, usually around mid-September. It is also known as Alpabfahrt or Dèsalpes. During this event, the roads from villages to mountains are closed for the traffic and opened for cattle and their herders as they descend from the Alps. Cows are decorated and wear different colored clothes representing cantons and towns, as the huge bells dangle from the neck, making the spectators feel like they are on a farm. Swiss celebrate this day and greet farmers coming down from The Alps giving them gratitude for the hard work they do each year.
3. Alpine Cattle Ascent
Better known as Alpaufzug, this event also takes place in many different town and villages, once the Alpine snow melts and pastures get their luscious green coat. Farmers put their best traditional clothes and prepare for a long and somewhat risky venture onto the Alps. Probably the most amazing part of this event is the volunteers that help cattle and farmers get to their destinations safely. It can be hard walking on a wet grass and narrow mountain passages. Even the children take part here- Little girls dressed up in folk clothes leading goats behind them will surely bring out a smile of joy on your face. An amazing event worth attending, as it will show you Swiss mentality and selflessness.
FUN FACT: One woman was declined citizenship by the locals twice. The reason for their decline lied in the fact that she spoke against these manifestations and claimed the cows are being tortured by the sound of the bells.
This festival has everything- from exciting and rough traditional wrestling to beautiful and soothing folk music. It was first held in 1805 as an attempt to bring the city and country folk a little bit closer, and today, we can say they did a good job. This event will let you experience the whole Switzerland in one place, and learn more about their history and tradition.
5. Witches’ Week
In most modern countries, legends are long forgotten or just told as bedtime stories for children. There is an old Swiss legend about a witch which lived in the Valais canton, in the region near Belalp, until she was burned at a stake. In her honor, Belalp ski resort turns into a fairytale- like place for a whole week. There are different manifestations throughout this week: The Witches’ descent, Witches’ Cross, and for the youngest ones- Hexen- Kinderfest. Put your best witch Halloween costume and come here for an event that you will remember a long time.
6. Zibelmärit folk Festival
Every fourth Monday of November hundreds of visitors come to Bern for an unusual reason- onion. The tradition is to come at 5:00 AM and eat a Zwiebelwähe(onion tart with eggs on top). This time of year, farmers bring almost 50 tons of onion that has been woven into braids. On this day, you can eat different onion delicacies in restaurants in Bern and warm yourself up with some warm, spicy wine. It is an interesting festival, that will let you mingle with local folk and experience traditional Swiss culture and dishes, so make sure to stop by.
7. Rigi- Schwingen
Schwingen is a form of wrestling, or more precisely- grappling. It is one of the national sports of Switzerland. The wrestlers stand in a sawdust circle and hold each other by special belts while trying to bring the opponent down on the ground. There are a lot of Schwingen competitions in Switzerland, and Rigi- Schwingen is the largest one. It is held above Lake Luzern and takes place once every three years. The last one was held in 2017. So, if you like Swiss sports culture, you will have to wait three more years to get to see this festival, but that does not mean you cannot see Schwingen anywhere because it represents an integral part of most of the Switzerland’s traditional festival and events.
Updated: August 22, 2017