The Swiss National Day in New York City (SND NYC) is an annually held event commemorating the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291. Organized by the Swiss Benevolent Society, it brings together Swiss, Swiss-Americans, and friends of Switzerland, on or around Switzerland's official August 1st National Day for a day of festivities and celebration.
The SND celebration is the largest and most prominent event of its kind in the United States. Every year, thousands of families and individuals come to enjoy and mingle in New York City, whilst enjoying fine Swiss foods and drinks, distinctly Swiss entertainment and activities for people of all ages. The SND also is host to the Swiss Village, which features other Swiss non-profits, clubs and vendors presenting uniquely Swiss items.
Tickets to the event can be purchased on-line, by mail or by phone, and we also hold a raffle, which you should be sure not to miss out on. Our raffle includes great prizes which have been generously donated by our sponsors, and helps to offset the large costs of putting on the event.
Please read "Invitation from the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York President" to this year's Swiss National Day event in New York City.
The Swiss Benevolent Society of New York, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is the oldest charitable Swiss organization in the United States. Founded in 1832 and formally organized in 1846, it has continued to function without interruption to the present day, always responding to the socioeconomic changes of the times.
During the last sixteen decades, the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York has constantly adapted its services and programs to the changing needs of the Swiss community in the greater New York area. At various times, it maintained a transient home, a soup kitchen, a home for the aged, a children's country camp and a residence for young women.
Today, our main goal remains to help our fellow Swiss to live as independently and well as they are able through two programs:
We also organize social events, publish a Swiss Business Directory, and serve as an information center about the Swiss community in the greater New York tri-state area.
Switzerland is one of the oldest States in the world. More than 700 years ago, the inhabitants of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden signed a contract of mutual aid and protection, the “Federal Charter”, which has since been considered to be Switzerland’s deed of foundation. This solemn oath, taken on 1 August 1291 on the legendary Rütli meadow overlooking Lake Lucerne, was mainly an act of rebellion against the Habsburgs, the rulers of the kingdom of Austria, who at the time were planning to extend their sphere of influence as far as the territories bordering the St. Gotthard.
The National Day on 1 August was, however, only instituted in 1891. As it happens, the national day was celebrated that year just to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The annual celebration was introduced in 1899, mainly at the insistence of the Swiss living abroad who, seeing the impressive national days already celebrated in other countries, also wanted a special day to commemorate the birth of their homeland. For decades after that, the national day, however, was just an ordinary holiday and only some cantons declared the afternoon or the whole day as an official national holiday. To make the event into a multipurpose official national holiday, a popular initiative had to be launched by the Swiss Democrats: the introduction of the official holiday on 1 August was adopted on 26 September 1993 by a good 83.3% of Swiss citizens.
The Swiss Psalm, composed by Leonhard Widmer of Zurich and put to music by Alberich Zwyssig, a monk from Wettingen Abbey, was played for the first time in public in 1841. From then on it was often sung at national events. The Federal Council, however, repeatedly rejected the proposal to declare it the official national anthem, arguing that such a decision should not be enforced by a decree from the authorities. On the contrary, it should be freely chosen by the people.
In fact, there was already another representative anthem that was used for political and military events, “Rufst Du mein Vaterland”, sung to the tune of the English national anthem “God save the King (Queen)”. As international contacts increased over the course of the 20th century, playing two virtually identical national anthems led at times to embarrassing situations. In 1961, therefore, the Swiss government decided that the Swiss Psalm would pro tempore become the official national anthem. Only on 1 April 1981 was it officially declared the Swiss national anthem.
A symbol of national identity par excellence, the Swiss flag becomes the main attraction of the 1 August national holiday. For the occasion the Swiss flag so loved by the Swiss people is flown outside people’s homes and on public buildings across the country.
Yet, until the 19th century, Switzerland did not have a national flag and the people, particularly soldiers going off to war, identified themselves by the colours of their own canton. However, after the battle of Laupen in 1339, Swiss soldiers would sew a white cross onto their uniforms so as to be recognised by other confederates. The first national flag, a green, red and yellow tricolour imposed by Napoleon, made its appearance in 1798 but was then abolished in 1803 when the Swiss republic was dissolved. Later, in 1815, the Federal Diet chose the square white cross, i.e. with all sides of the same length, as the official coat of arms of the Confederation to be added to the centre of all cantonal flags. The Swiss flag with the white cross on a red background was officially adopted with the constitution of the new federal State in 1848 but it was only in 1889 that the Federal Council laid down its characteristics. Since then the coat of arms of the Swiss Confederation has been a free, white vertical cross on a red background. The arms of the cross, all of the same length, are one sixth longer than they are wide. Its traditional form is unusual: apart from the Vatican flag, it is in fact the only square-shaped national flag.
For additional information about Switzerland, please visit the following websites:
Federal Charter of 1291
Historical Dictionary of Switzerland - Rütli
National Day Ordinance
Historical Dictionary of Switzerland – National Day
Swiss National Anthem
How a church hymn became a national anthem
swissworld.org – The Swiss flag
Federal decree of 12 December 1889 on the Swiss Confederation’s coat of arms
Federal Chancellery, e-Government Section - www.ch.ch