Happy 719th birthday, Switzerland

July 28, 2010, 2 Comments

[youtube=]On Sunday it’s the 1st August: Switzerland’s National Day. And there’s no Swiss-er way of celebrating it than sticking a sausage on a stick, grilling it over an open fire and eating it while watching fireworks. Of course, this isn’t any old sausage, it’s the Swiss national sausage. Yes, this is a country with its own sausage, called the cervelat. It’s short, fat and pinky-brown, made from a mix of beef, pork, bacon, salt and herbs, all minced and stuffed into cow’s intestines, then smoked and parboiled. The traditional way to prepare it is to cut both ends with a cross, so that when grilled, they curl outwards making it end up looking a little like a mini roasted pig. Altogether, the Swiss eat 160 million of them a year, and I’m sure at least half of them are consumed on 1 August. To see how important the sausage is to this day, watch the current advert playing on Swiss TV. I love it. The ad, that is, not the sausage.

Swiss National Day

Big bang time

Any Swiss National Day celebration has both bangers and bangs. Fireworks are a big deal. It’s like Bonfire Night, July 4th and New Year combined.  The shops are now full of pyrotechnical wonders of all shapes, sizes and strength, most of them probably illegal to buy over the counter in Britain (and this in a country where Christmas crackers need a dangerous weapons licence!). Luckily, there are three strict age bands (12, 16 and 18 years old) with the bang getting bigger the older you are. I may be old enough to buy the biggest, brashest ones but they look downright scary. I think I’ll stick to waving sparklers in my hand and watching the communal display that Bern, like almost every town, puts on. And hope I get to sleep before 2am despite all the kids letting off firecrackers in the street outside.

1 August picnic eggs

From patriotic hens

It’s not just fireworks that are filling the shelves at the moment. Anything and everything that can sport a Swiss cross is on display in an annual fit of patriotic shopping. Alongside the numerous flags are the expected (paper cups and key rings), the surprising (plastic ponchos and plasters), and the very Swiss – giant paper lanterns that are carried up on a stick with a tea-light inside. Looks lovely, but looks like a huge fire risk to me. Those Swiss really know how to live dangerously at this time of year. And then there’s my favourite: Swiss picnic eggs. These cooked eggs are on sale all year round (what a fab idea that is, especially when you’re assembling an impromptu picnic) and are always painted in bright colours to distinguish them from the raw ones. But just in this week of the year, you can buy ones with Swiss crosses on.

 All this is to commemorate the traditional date on which Switzerland was created. Unusually for a country where most things are documented, organised and verified in triplicate, the date is a best guess and only set in stone when the day became a national holiday – and that wasn’t until 1891. As to what actually happened 719 years ago, come back here on Sunday to find out…

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2 Comments on "Happy 719th birthday, Switzerland"

  1. expatraveler Saturday July 31st, 2010 at 11:19 PM · Reply

    Love the ad and the eggs! Two years ago, I was given my metal water bottle. Still am inseparable to that thing… Happy Swiss National Day to you as we celebrate BC Day for us here on Monday.

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