Swiss Alpine season added to UNESCO cultural heritage list

Swiss Alpine season added to UNESCO cultural heritage list

It’s one of the most iconic parts of the Swiss mountains; seeing the cows grazing on high alpine pastures before being led down to lower ground with much celebration and fanfare. Now, UNESCO has added the “Swiss Alpine season” to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

What is Swiss Alpine season?

For the uninitiated, the Alpine season refers to when farmers in Switzerland lead their cattle to high pastures in the mountains to graze during the summer months. Then, when the weather gets colder, the cattle are led down the mountains and through villages to fields and barns in the lowlands to be kept nice and warm before they jovially leap out in spring.

There has been documented evidence of the tradition in Swiss cantons since the Middle Ages, with farmers employing the technique to make use of all the arable land the alpine nation has to offer. Now, UNESCO has announced that the tradition will be added to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In a statement, the Swiss government praised the decision to include the “exemplary” tradition, arguing that it “brings together skills, customs and rituals related to alpine farming.” They noted that the tradition is responsible for Swiss delicacies like Swiss cheese, the teaching of craft skills, and even some forms of traditional singing. 

Alpine season joins other Swiss traditions on UNESCO list

“The Alpine season brings together a whole repertoire of customs, skills and rituals that make it an extremely lively cultural heritage,” the government argued. They also took time to thank the Swiss cantons, museums, nature parks and other organisations for putting the bid together: “Thanks to this broad-based approach, the diversity and richness of Alpine traditions were depicted and important issues relating to young talent and adaptation to climate change were highlighted.” 

With the alpine season included on the list, the fight to preserve it is now a global effort. The practice joins other Swiss traditions such as the wine festival of Vevey (admitted in 2016), Basel Fasnacht (2017), the historical procession in Mendrisio (2019) and watchmaking (2020) on the list. According to the government, Swiss graphic design and yodelling are the next traditions aiming for the same status.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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