Swiss Federal Fast
Swiss Federal Fast is a multi-denominational holiday also known as Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance, and Prayer that is observed by the Jewish community and by all Christian denominations. It is considered to be a high holiday that is almost as important as Easter Sunday, Good Friday, or maybe even Christmas.
This holiday is observed on the third Sunday in September annually in most of Switzerland – except for the canton of Vaud, where they enjoy a public holiday on the following Monday, and the canton of Geneva, where it is observed as Jeûne genevois on the Thursday following the first Sunday in September.
Up until quite recently, museums, theaters, and other exhibitions were closed on this day, but that is no longer the case, and those businesses now remain open on this day.
The History of Swiss Federal Fast
Days of giving thanks are holidays that date back to the late Middle Ages, but the first Federal Fast across all reformed cantons occurred after the 1619 Synod of Dordrecht to give thanks for the unity expressed during the Reformation. In the 1640s, the Catholic cantons also adopted a common fast day.
In September of 1797, the first unified fast day among all reformed cantons came following a mandate from the Helvetic Republic. In 1832, this fast day was made a Federal Fest and was placed on the third Sunday in September.
During that time, the government would tell the cantons what to give thanks for, but that began to change over the years. After the end of the 19th century, the government left the role of the mandates to the individual churches and took less of a personal part in them.
Observing Swiss Federal Fast
Swiss Federal Fast is a day of prayer, so many people spend the day attending church services, repenting for their sins, or fasting—depending on their individual religious beliefs. Up until the 1980s, businesses were closed on this holiday, but that has since changed, and most businesses operate according to normal Sunday hours.