When is Federal Fast?
When is Bettagsmontag?
Known in German as 'Eidgenssischer Dank-, Buss- und Bettag' (or 'Bettag'), The Federal Fast is a Swiss government-arranged multi-denominational holiday celebrated by all Christian Churches and the Jewish community.
Most of Switzerland celebrates the holiday on the third Sunday in September. The canton of Geneva celebrates instead the Jeûne with a holiday on the Thursday after the first Sunday in September.
In Bern, Neuchâtel and Vaud, the Monday after 3rd Sunday in September is a holiday known as Bettagsmontag.
The Federal Fast is a high holiday with similar stature to Good Friday, Easter Sunday or Christmas. Up to the year 2000, for example, in Zurich, shooting exercises, sports and dance events of any kind were prohibited; exhibitions, museums and cinemas remained closed. Today, museums open but firing exercises and public meetings of a non-religious nature are still not allowed.
History of Federal Fast
Thanksgiving days (Bettag) had been a tradition in Switzerland since the late medieval period and special days of thanksgiving had been decreed by the Federal Government, for example in 1572 in Zurich for persecuted Huguenots, in 1639, after several epidemics of plague in St. Gallen and in 1651 because of an earthquake in Zurich in the previous year.
The first Bettag across all reformed cantons took place after the 1619 Synod of Dordrecht, to give thanks for the unity of the Reformation. From 1639, following the assassination of Jörg Jenatsch, Bettag was repeated annual to mark the sparing of Switzerland from involvement in the Thirty Years' War.
In 1643 the Catholic cantons also adopted a common Bettag but not on the same day as the one observed by the reformed cantons.
September 1797 marked the first time that a Bettag was observed by the Catholic and Reformed cantons, following a mandate from the Central Government of the Helvetic Republic.
In 1832 it was decided that the third Sunday in September was to be the date of Federal Feast. The government would determine what each Bettag would give thanks for..
Towards the end of the 19th Century, the federal government took less of a a role in the mandates, leaving the wording to the various churches involved.