The Swiss Consulate will be commemorating the Swiss National Day on April 13. Surprised? Well, of course, considering that the National Day actually falls on August 1.

By Mubashra Siddiqui (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Tue 12 Apr 2005, 12:30 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 5:57 PM

"August would be a little too hot for an outdoor celebration and we have, therefore, decided to celebrate a 'bit' earlier. I guess, one cannot say that the Swiss are not flexible,' commented Hans Hauser, Consul General of Switzerland, candidly.

Since the end of the 19th century, the first of August has been traditionally celebrated as National Day for the Swiss. The date refers to one of the first agreements made 'at the beginning of the month of August' between the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, who constituted the focal point around which present day Switzerland was built.

Men from these three cantons swore eternal allegiance to one another, known as the Rütli Oath, promising mutual help and assistance. The alliance was formed against the Habsburgs, who at this time were trying to strengthen their position in the area.

'The Rütli, a meadow surrounded by forest, nestles on the shores of Lake Urner, the southern arm of Lake Lucerne. This was where the myth of the Rütli Oath began. The story tells of how in the summer of 1291, men from the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden joined together to found the Swiss Federation. Although there is no documented proof, a Letter of Alliance dated 1291 substantiates that people living around the lake discussed common problems, administrated common property and wanted to use their united strength to settle disputes. Most probably this awareness of unity was not created in one simple act but developed over a period of years,' Hauser elaborated.

He added, 'The Swiss National Day is not simply the commemoration of one specific day and deed, but far more the commemoration of a more or less functional group of regions, independent, yet reliant on each other, who joined together in the 13th century.'

The event is celebrated by lighting bonfires on hills or elevated ground, recalling the expulsion of foreign bailiffs in the fourteenth century. Children carrying paper lanterns walk through the streets at night and bakers bake bread rolls with little Swiss flags on them.

Sharing a meal with neighbours is another common August 1 tradition and the largest form of this culinary custom takes place in Schaffhausen, where townspeople and guests are invited to a hearty open-air breakfast.

A special kind of celebration also takes place at the Rhine Falls at Neuhausen. The cascading water, rushing among the rocks before majestically descending 75 feet to the Rhine below, is floodlit spectacularly while a magnificent fireworks display also attracts throngs of spectators.

For the celebrations in Dubai, a group of Swiss musicians from Grindelwald, Berner Oberland, one of them yodelling and the other two playing an accordion and an alphorn, will entertain guests with Swiss folkloric music. To add an element of thrill and anticipation to the show, tickets for a raffle will be also sold during the reception. The event is supported by Swiss companies, their local agents and associates by way of gifts for the draw or a cash donation.

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