August 1 – National Days in Benin and Switzerland

Posted on August 1, 2014

Could there be two nations less alike, and two national days as varied?

Switzerland is a European nation with three official languages and a reputation for great cheese, chocolate, watches and clocks, and (especially) banks. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world.

Switzerland is marked in bright pink.
Benin is an African nation with only one official language but several indigenous languages; the economy depends largely on subsistence farming and a few agricultural exports such as cotton and nuts.

The Swiss National Day harkens back to an oath of confederation sworn by representatives of three Alpine cantons against the Holy Roman Empire – way back in 1291! It is a federal representative democracy and has one of the most stable governments and economies in the world—partly, no doubt, because the nation has a long history of armed neutrality and therefore it doesn't waste people and resources on war.

Benin's Independence Day celebrates its much, much more recent (1960) independence from colonial power France. 

Since its independence, the nation has attempted to set up democratic governments many times but has experienced many military coups and governments.

Most of Switzerland is high mountain country with lots of glaciers and snow. Tourism—especially winter tourism—is important.

Most of Benin is flat and tropical. Much of the land that is not farmed is covered with mangroves or is savannah covered with thorny scrubs and the occasional huge baobab tree.

To celebrate today, some Swiss people will enjoy the Rhine Falls illuminated, and others will enjoy a historical reenactment or a fireworks show. Basically, the celebrations tend to be more regional and local than national.

Benin's Independence Day sounds pretty typical – speeches from national leaders and flag-raising ceremonies.

There are also some events of dancing or other shows of cultural pride.

Also on this date:

Lammas Day in Scotland 

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