Näfelser Fahrt

Observed as a regional public holiday in the Swiss Canton of Glarus, Näfelser Fahrt commemorates the Battle of Näfels, which was fought on April 9, 1388. This battle involved the Glarus Canton and its Old Swiss Confederation allies against the Archduchy of Austria.

This holiday is observed on the first Thursday in April every year in the canton, and it is a day observed by the military and civilians alike. It is a public holiday in Glarus, which makes it a day off for the general population, and a day when schools and many businesses are closed.

The History of Näfelser Fahrt in Glarus

Because of the Glarus Canton’s proximity to waterways and its strategic importance, it was under Austrian rule. Then, the people of Glarus rose up against the occupying forces and initiated the Battle of Sempach in July of 1386.

Two years later, the Austrians laid siege to the town of Näfels. At the time, the town’s only defense was a small garrison of 400 Swiss Confederation soldiers, soldiers who ended up retreating into the hills surrounding the town.

As the garrison retreated, the Austrian army began to plunder farms and villages around the town. Preoccupied with their looting, the Glarners emerged from the fog and took the Austrians by surprise.

The disorganized Austrian line broke and fled towards Weesen. However, many of these soldiers were killed as the bridge over the Maag collapsed and dropped them into the Linth, where they drowned. It was estimated that the Habsburg losses were around 700 soldiers.

In 1389, a seven-year peace was signed in Vienna. This is also the year when the first pilgrimage to the site of the battle was held, marking the first Näfelser Fahrt. Over the past 633+ years, this pilgrimage has been held and is now a public holiday observed on the first Thursday in April.

Observing Näfelser Fahrt in Glarus

This is a day off for the general population and a time when schools, government offices, and some businesses are closed. There is an annual pilgrimage to the site of the battle. This procession combines religious medieval traditions for the remembrance of the dead with modern, patriotic celebrations.

Up to a thousand people can participate in this procession every year. The hashtag #NafelserFahrt is often used on social media to spread the word about this holiday online. This is also a time for people to spend time with their friends and family members or simply enjoy some time off for themselves.

Where is it celebrated?
Switzerland (Common local holiday) - Glarus
When is it?
This year (2024)
April 4 Thursday
Next year (2025)
April 3 Thursday
Last year (2023)
April 6 Thursday