Whether you already live in Switzerland or plan to move there, it helps to know when the Swiss bank holidays are. Public holidays are an excellent time to explore this picturesque country or get in touch with some of its fascinating traditions. However, public holidays in Switzerland are not entirely straightforward. Some holidays are observed only in certain cantons and not in others. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Switzerland’s bank holidays and where they’re observed.
- Which Swiss canton has the most public holidays?
- Switzerland’s national holidays
- Widely observed public holidays in Switzerland
- Bank holidays in the Swiss cantons
Which Swiss canton has the most public holidays?
If you’re basing a move to Switzerland solely on the number of bank holidays you’ll get, try to find a job in Ticino. This canton observes an impressive 15 public holidays per year — the most in the country. On the other hand, you might want to avoid the cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Graubünden, which have just eight public holidays per year. Graubünden is also Switzerland’s most sparsely populated canton…coincidence?
Switzerland’s national holidays
There are only four truly national holidays in Switzerland observed in all of the Swiss cantons.
New Year’s Day
January 1 is New Year’s Day in Switzerland, and it’s a public holiday across the country. It’s mostly a day for sleeping off hangovers and making New Year’s resolutions. But, if you happen to be in Klosters, you might catch something very special. The Hotschrennen der Glückssäuli (lucky piglet race) happens at 3 p.m. on January 1 every year. You can place a bet on the piglets as they take on the snowy course, all while pigging out on heaps of local food and drink.
Ascension Day is celebrated 40 days after Easter, so the date is variable. On this day, schools and most businesses are closed, and church services are held. One major event is the procession in Beromünster, where around 1,000 pilgrims walk a centuries-old 18-kilometer route to pray, meditate and receive blessings.
Celebrated on August 1 in Switzerland, National Day is the only public holiday at a federal level in Switzerland. It celebrates the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291, and there are local celebrations across the country, including bonfires, fireworks and concerts. A particularly special place to be on National Day is the spectacular Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen, as the falls are illuminated and visitors are treated to a large fireworks display.
Though the main Christmas meal and celebrations happen on Christmas Eve in Switzerland, December 24 is only a public holiday in the canton of Glarus. December 25 is a national holiday and people usually spend the day with family or friends.
Widely observed public holidays in Switzerland
Four more holidays are celebrated in most cantons in Switzerland. These are Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Boxing Day. Only Boxing Day has a fixed date (December 26), while the others are celebrated on variable dates.
There are several interesting Easter traditions across Switzerland that you might be lucky enough to catch. One is the Easter Monday blue egg swim in the canton of Zürich, which sees people brave the icy waters of Lake Greifensee to retrieve an Easter egg from a diving platform. Another is the Eiertütsche (egg smash), when people try to smash each other’s hard-boiled eggs. This happens in many German-speaking areas of Switzerland.
Bank holidays in the Swiss cantons
Many of the Swiss cantons celebrate different holidays from one another, and some public holidays are only observed in one canton. The canton of Neuchâtel celebrates Republic Day on March 1, while Jura, Switzerland’s youngest canton, celebrates its 1979 secession from the canton of Bern on June 23. Jeûne genevois is celebrated in the canton of Geneva in September. If you’re a fan of prunes, this is the festival for you, as prune tart is traditionally eaten on this day.
Which Swiss public holiday do you want to celebrate?
If you have to choose just one bank holiday to celebrate, try to take part in some of the celebrations for National Day. At the height of summer, it’s a day and evening full of festivities. Christmas and Easter are also great times to get a peek at some of the country’s traditions. Finally, if you’re moving around in Switzerland, make sure to check if the canton has a public holiday when you’ll be there.