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Swiss celebrate National Day worldwide

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Swiss cheese in Zimbabwe, sausages in Paris and alpine horns in Washington – these are just some of the ways Swiss National Day was celebrated abroad on Wednesday.

This content was published on August 1, 2007 - 13:49

For many of the around 650,000 Swiss who live overseas, the event is an important way to keep in touch with their homeland. It enables them to introduce some traditional Swiss customs to their new countries as well.

There are two parties being held in Zimbabwe for Swiss National Day, which is traditionally marked on August 1 - one in the Swiss embassy in Harare and one in the Bulawayo, the country's second largest city.

"I have imported 16 kilograms of cheese," the Swiss ambassador to Zimbabwe, Marcel Stutz, told the Swiss news agency. "Tête de Moine, Gruyère and Appenzeller."

The only problem is where to find the bread. "There is hardly anything available in Zimbabwe at the moment. I'll have to see if we can bake some ourselves," added Stutz.

This is the first time for a long while that the embassy is celebrating national day. In previous years there was not enough funding.

Around 150 people are expected at the part, mainly from diplomatic circles, although Stutz is hoping that some Zimbabweans will come as well.

Relations between Bern and Harare are still strained after Switzerland – along with many other countries - imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe's country.

"We can show our generosity on August 1," said Stutz.

Berlin celebrates

The Swiss embassy in Berlin is also holding a large event in its new building. Around 10,000 people came to the celebrations last year, making it one of the largest August 1 parties abroad.

This year Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard will be in attendance, as her home canton of Aargau is the guest of honour. She will give a speech to an invited audience of around 1,000 people.

The Swiss ambassador to Germany, Christian Blickenstorfer, spoke of the close relations between the two countries.

"Switzerland is the number one emigration country for Germans," he said.

A few countries have already held their events. Around 400 guests were expected at the traditional-style festivities in Paris on July 29.

The party in the French capital offered such delicacies as Swiss sausages, raclette cheese and original Kirschstängeli – chocolates filled with cherry liqueur – brought by guest canton Zug. There was also a firework display.

Alphorns in Washington

In Washington, in the United States, the celebrations were held in the Swiss embassy on July 28.

In all, up to 600 guests were expected for food, dance and alphorn music. The Swiss national anthem was also sung.

There are no rules for how the Swiss abroad should celebrate their national day. Events are usually organised by embassies, local ex-pat clubs or as a joint effort between the two.

According to a spokesman for the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, most of the 700 Swiss ex-pat clubs mark the special day.

swissinfo with agencies

National Day

Legend says that it was there on August 1, 1291, that representatives from three forest cantons around the lake of Lucerne – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden – met on the Rütli meadow amidst continuing Habsburg repression to sign a pact of eternal mutual defence.

This is said to have laid the foundation of the Switzerland of today.

1291 is taken as the birth date of the country, and August 1 is the official Swiss national holiday.

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Swiss abroad

At the end of December 2006, 645,010 Swiss nationals were living abroad. Just over 70% of them held dual citizenship. Three in five lived in EU countries.

Outside the EU, there are large communities in the United States (71,984), Canada (36,374) and Australia (21,291).

The Swiss president in 2007, Micheline Calmy-Rey, called on the Swiss abroad to let their voice be heard at the forthcoming federal elections in October in her speech to Swiss expats for August 1.

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