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Berchtold Day in Switzerland

Berchtold Day (Berchtoldstag or Bärzelitag) on January 2 is an Alemannic tradition that is celebrated in some areas of Switzerland. The holiday's name does not refer to a Saint (there is no St. Berchtold) but is derived from the verb berchten – meaning “to walk around, asking for food”.

Is Berchtold Day a Public Holiday?

Berchtold Day is a public holiday in 15 cantons, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

What Do People Do?

Berchtold Day is a light-hearted, sociable event. People meet in pubs and restaurants to exchange good wishes for the new year. In some areas, old traditions that have elsewhere been discontinued due to the Protestant Reformation are still being kept alive. In Hallwil in the canton of Aargau one can still witness the Bärzeli, a parade of dressed up and masked figures symbolizing concepts like fertility, age, ugliness, wisdom, and vice.

Public Life

Berchtold Day is a public holiday in the following cantons:

  • Aargau (some communities)
  • Bern
  • Jura
  • Lucerne
  • Neuchâtel
  • Thurgau
  • Vaud
  • Zurich

In the canton of Jura, January 2 is a “silent day” (Ruhetag).
In the following cantons, offices, banks, schools and businesses may also be closed:

  • Fribourg
  • Glarus
  • Nidwalden
  • Obwalden
  • Schaffhausen
  • Solothurn
  • Zug

Background

As the Berchtoldstag is an Alemannic tradition, it is usually only celebrated in areas that boast a predominantly Alemannic population. This includes the above-mentioned areas of Switzerland, as well as Liechtenstein and the Alsace region in France.

Berchtold Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SatJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2011SunJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2012MonJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2013WedJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2014ThuJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2015FriJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2016SatJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2017MonJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2018TueJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2019WedJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states
2020ThuJan 2Berchtold DayCommon local holiday15 states

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