9. September 2020

Federal celebration 2020: An act of state under the sign of Corona

Instead of the planned celebration, the SSCG organized an alternative celebration together with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga. On the Rütli, the President of the Swiss Confederation honored one woman and one man from each canton and from the “Fifth Switzerland” (Swiss citizens living abroad) on behalf of countless people who showed solidarity during the Corona period.

Nobody wants to be a hero

The SSCG was asked to find the 54 Corona heroes. This task was not easy. Even nurses in intensive care units and volunteers who set up local food aid did not want to see themselves as heroes. Firstly, they felt their commitment was something quite normal and natural. And secondly, many emphasized that during the lockdown they were just parts of larger teams. Some of the people who were chosen for the honor by the Federal President also cancelled completely because they did not want to be honored publicly or because they wanted to finally allow themselves a few days of rest over the first weekend in August after months of day and night dedicated to helping other people.

Extraordinary effort

Although the celebration with 250 participants had eight times fewer guests than in pandemic-free years, the preparation was more complex. At the same time, we had to prepare a plan B in case of continuous rain and rented the Bally Hall in Schönenwerd, Solothurn, on a temporary basis. And because the act of state was filmed live and streamed on the Federal Council’s YouTube channel, the actors even had to put on make-up before their appearance.

More than 30 Corona heroes, relatives and guests arrived the evening before from French-speaking Switzerland and the Grisons. The Lucerne Five-star Hotel Schweizerhof, which was understaffed due to the lack of tourists from abroad, invited all guests to stay overnight and have breakfast free of charge.

Impressive design

At the harbor of Brunnen, Röbi Imlig put the guests in the right mood for the celebration with the sounds of the alphorn. On the extra ship it was of course compulsory to wear masks. On the Rütli meadow the guests were welcomed by the Military brass ensemble with “Vo Lozärn gäge Wäggis zue” and “L’inverno è passato”. The five soldiers had only started the recruiting service a few weeks before, but played like a professional band. Rütli tenant Mike McCardell spoiled the guests with specialties from Ticino at the request of the President of the Swiss Confederation: antipasta as well as risotto with Luganighe. At exactly 1 pm the recruits opened the federal celebration with “Réjouissance” from Händel’s fireworks music. The presenter Maria Victoria Haas led masterfully in all four official languages through the 90-minute program. The Fribourg opera singer Marie-Claude Chappuis sang traditional songs such as “Liauba”, “Le vieux chalet” and “Vreneli vo Guggisberg” with great passion and accompanied by the choir “Les voix de la Gruyère”. The young alphorn player Lisa Stoll and the young flag-wavers from Weggis showed themselves to be masters of their craft, as in previous years.

Switzerland is functioning

In the ceremonial address and after the Corona award ceremony, Swiss President Sommaruga emphasized that social cohesion had worked well within Switzerland during the Corona crisis. International trade had also worked well during the lockdown. At the same time, the magistrate continued to urge caution in order to limit the spread of the virus.

One of the 54 heroes from each of the four language regions gave testimony about life in the Corona region. Rita Monotti, chief physician in the Carità hospital in Locarno, reported from the work in the intensive care unit, Olivier Schaffter of the restaurant “La croix blanche” in Delémont, told of the 300 pizzas, which he created in each case free of charge for the hospital staff. Judith Schnider, the branch manager of the supermarket in Laax, described in Romansh the difficulty of supplying the population during the lockdown. And the Bernese teacher Christian Stähli and his student Tara praised the distance learning via video. The 54 heroes received a small apple tree from the Federal President for their own use. In October they will receive a larger tree which they plant in a central location in agreement with the cantons to commemorate the Corona period.

New hymnal text in all national languages

At the end of the ceremony, Marie-Claude Chappuis sang the new text of the Swiss National Anthem proposed by the SSCG, before all the guests sang the first verse of the Swiss Psalm in their respective mother tongues. And just at the moment when SSCG President Jean-Daniel Gerber thanked all the participants and the brass band ended the celebration with the song “La Mer”, the rain set in and automatically drove the guests down to the ship’s station.

2021 for women, 2022 with bad boys

It is very much hoped that in the coming years up to 2,000 people will again be able to attend the federal celebrations on the Rütli meadow. On August 1, 2021, all women’s associations will celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland together with the nine living female federal councillors. On August 1, 2022, the celebration will be made up for with the Federal Association of Swiss Wrestling.