Traditions – facts and figures

Traditions and customs are firmly embedded in everyday life in Switzerland. They are often related to farming activities, the seasons or Christian holidays, but are as complex as the people themselves who are involved.

Cows with headdresses and bells.
Traditionally, the Alpine cattle descent of the herdsmen, with the decorated cows, is concluded in the valley with a festival – Alpine cattle descent in the canton of Fribourg . © Wikicommons

  • 167 living customs are listed in the Swiss inventory drawn up within the framework of the UNESCO conventions. Basel's carnival and the winegrowers' festival in Vevey are two of these customs.
  • The first of August is the Swiss national holiday. It has been observed every year since 1899. The first of August was chosen because the Federal Charter in which the first three cantons pledged mutual support if attacked was signed in early August 1291.
  • Every three years, the Federal Yodelling Festival allows over 10,000 yodellers, flag-throwers and alphorn-players to compete with each other. Each edition of the three-day festival attracts more than 150,000 visitors.

Song welcoming visitors to the Federal Yodelling Festival held in the canton of Valais in 2017.

  • Heidi, the mythical tale of the adventures of a girl from the Swiss mountains written by Johanna Spyri in the 19th century, has been translated into more than 50 languages and adapted for the silver screen several times. 
  • Unique Swiss customs include sports such as schwingen, a type of wrestling, and hornussen, a hybrid of golf and baseball.
  • The national Swiss Schwingen Association has over 50,000 members, and the last Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival drew over 400,000 festivalgoers.

Video compiling highlights of the Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival of 2019 in Zug.

  • Jass is the Swiss card game that is played even in the most tucked-away valleys. Since the 15th century, the cards used have been in either French or German.
  • A 53-kilometer route through high alpine terrain is the hallmark of the strenuous Patrouille des Glaciers ski mountaineering race, in which over 4,700 military and civilian participants from around 30 countries compete every two years.
  • Originally produced to decorate traditional costumes, the industrialised St. Gallen embroideries and laces became world-famous during the 19th century and are still popular in haute couture today.