Posted on September 25, 2016
Did you know that the “patron saint” of Switzerland is Saint Nicholas of Flüe, also known as Brother Klaus?
Wait! – Saint Nicholas? Saint Klaus?
Don't get excited – Santa Claus / Saint Nick / Sinterklaas is Saint Nicholas of Myra. Basically the same name, but from a different place. Thus, a different guy.
The original Nicholas of Flüe was a farmer / military leader / government official until he had a vision and became a hermit and mystic. He lived in Switzerland in the 1400s, and his wisdom is considered to have prevented a war between the various Swiss cantons.
I read that Brother Klaus was the son of “wealthy peasants,” a concept I found interesting. Somehow, the word peasant always makes me think of people who live in the country and are quite poor. But I guess if your station in life is “peasant,” but you work so hard and so efficiently that you are able to grow more crops, raise more cows, or whatever – you could end up growing rich?
Here's an oddity: Nicholas of Flüe's Feast Day is March 21 everywhere but in Germany and Switzerland – and in those two nations, his Feast Day is today, September 25.
Cool things about Switzerland
You probably know that Switzerland is a beautiful nation in Europe, with plenty of mountains (Alps), streams, waterfalls, and lakes, but no access to an ocean or sea. It's landlocked – but what a beautiful chunk of land to be “locked” in!
The people of Switzerland have a strong national identity and shared values – which is very cool but almost surprising, since they speak four different official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Since there is so much linguistic diversity, Swiss coins and stamps use the Latin name, Helvetia, for the nation rather than one of the living official languages.
You see, Switzerland is the English name for the country. Its other names include:
Schweiz – German
Suisse – French
Svizzera – Italian
Svizra – Romansh
Helvetia – Latin
And the country is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica, with the abbreviation CH. In international tables, Swiss francs are listed as CHF.
Interestingly enough, Switzerland is not part of the EU, and it continues to use its traditional Swiss franc rather than the euro. But Switzerland is a highly developed nation, a wealthy nation, a nation of banks. When we were there way back in the 1990s, we could use dollars from the U.S., lira from Italy, pounds from England, whatever! And we could even use credit cards with street vendors and small purchases – something that is pretty common here in the U.S. nowadays but was very unusual back then. I thought it was smart that it had made itself the easiest country in which to spend money – because people are more apt to spend where they CAN spend, right?
Switzerland has much more direct democracy than most democracies, because citizens can challenge any law passed by their parliament. They have to collect 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days of the law's passage – and if they do so, it becomes a referendum. Voters decide by a simple majority whether or not to accept the law.
The Swiss are not only wealthy compared to others in the world, they are longer lived than most and happier than most. Most years, they come out as #1 or 2 in most rankings (longest life expectancy, safest country, happiest country, best country to live in, etc.).
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