Everything you need to know about Assumption Day in Switzerland

Everything you need to know about Assumption Day in Switzerland

Assumption Day is a Christian holiday celebrated on August 15 each year to mark the day that Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, was taken to heaven. The day is celebrated as a public holiday in some Swiss cantons.

The legend of the Assumption of Mary

Assumption Day, which takes place in August every year, marks the day that Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, is said to have been taken to heaven. The story goes that Mary was taken to heaven before her tomb was opened. When the tomb was eventually opened, bystanders were surprised to find it empty, with only wreaths of herbs and flowers left inside.

These herbs and flowers have since become a large part of the religious holiday and shape many of the activities that take place on Assumption Day in Switzerland. This short video explains why Mary is so important to Catholics and Orthodox Christians:

Video: Youtube / Tweeting with God

Assumption Day as a public holiday in Switzerland

Though only a public holiday in eight Swiss cantons (Lucerne, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Ticino, Uri, Valais and Zug) - and a number of towns and villages across the country - the Assumption of Mary is still observed by Christians (particularly Catholics) across Switzerland.

Many choose to attend church for special services that take place on the day. Since it is not a national holiday in Switzerland, most public services run as normal, except in those cantons that keep Assumption Day as a public holiday, where schools and businesses are closed, or if Assumption Day falls on a Sunday.

Why do people carry herbs for Assumption Day?

Lots of Christians collect herbs and flowers on Assumption Day, to protect them from dangers such as illness or bad weather. Many Christians choose to go out to meadows and gather bouquets of herbs and flowers on this special day, to be blessed at church services, then hung throughout houses to protect them from harm. Some popular herbs and flowers include Agrimony, Chamomile, Clover, Thyme and Valerian.

Children also play a part in the day too. The first ripe hazelnuts or walnuts of the season are called “Mary’s nuts” and are given to kids on Assumption Day.

Do Swiss people fast for Assumption Day?

Unlike other religious holidays such as Easter, Christians and Catholics in Switzerland don’t fast during Assumption Day. Other denominations such as Eastern Orthodox Christians fast for 15 days leading up to the day, but in Switzerland, this is not common practice. 

Instead, some Christians in Switzerland make pilgrimages 30 days after Assumption Day, as it is believed that it is at this time that Mary is blessing the Earth.

Assumption Day in Switzerland

Some regions in Switzerland also host special events such as parades to mark the special day. Many families then gather in the evening for a small celebration with some food and close the day together.  

Now that you know what to look for, perhaps you can find some events going on near you to celebrate Assumption Day in Switzerland, or simply sit back and enjoy watching others celebrate with herbs and flowers in the parade. 

Emily Proctor


Emily Proctor

Emily grew up in the UK before moving abroad to study International Relations and Chinese. She then obtained a Master's degree in International Security and gained an interest in journalism....

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