August 1st marks the annual celebration of Swiss National (or Confederation) Day.
In German it is known as ' Schweizer Bundesfeier' ; in French as 'Fête nationale Suisse'; in Italian as 'Festa nazionale svizzera' and Romansh as ' Fiasta naziunala Svizra'.
It was in 1891 that the date of Swiss National day was first decided upon, though it took over a hundred years before the Swiss decided to have a vote and give themselves the day off.
Following the vote in September 1993, the day became an official national holiday in 1994.
August 1st was chosen because this was said to be the day, in 1291, on which the three forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed the Federal Charter on the Rütli field, near to Lake Lucerne.
In fact, the charter does not specifically mention August 1st as the date, but instead refers to "at the beginning of the month of August 1291".
The charter united the signatories in the struggle against Habsburg rule, the family then possessing the Duchy of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire. The signing of the charter has now become regarded as the foundation of Switzerland.
The official celebration fittingly takes place at Rütli field, where a representational celebration is staged in the location that the signing of the charter took place.
Similar to the American Independence Day celebrations, big family gatherings and barbeques are a common feature of the day. Communities across Switzerland also celebrate the occasion with bonfires, fireworks and parades. The tradition of lighting a bonfire in high summer predates National day. The custom of lighting a bonfire on St. John's Day, was common across Europe; though this was in turn, a Christian version of much older Midsummer Celebrations taking place on or around this date.
A National Day tradition that has gained in popularity over the last couple of years is having breakfast at a farm. This is particularly popular among families with children, since it's not only a huge culinary delight in form of a "farmers" breakfast, but everyone also gets to experience what it's like to keep a farm running. (everything from how to produce cheese, bread, how to make jam, getting close to the animals, etc.)