Berchtold was no Saint ! [Switzerland]

Hello everyone,

We’re travelling Switzerland the first week of 2017 and it’s Berchtold’s Day there today.

As I was browsing through my new Diary searching for public holidays in different countries, I saw that the 2nd of January was Saint Berchtold’s Day and I wondered who Saint Berchtold was.

Turns out that he is no Saint! There are several theories of who Berchtold was.

  • Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen.

There is a legend spelling out how Berchtold had founded the city of Bern and named it after a bear since it was the first animal which he had encountered in a hunt and killed.  Why is the  day celebrated in January? Berchtold’s trip was believe to have taken place in that month.

  • Berchtold of Engelberg (a Swiss German Benedictine monk)

The verb “berchten” means “to walk around, asking for food” in this context.

Berchtold’s Day is commonly celebrated in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland like Bern, Zürich and others. In these cantons, the day has the status of a public holiday and a non-working day.


The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the 26 member states of the Swiss Confederation. Three of the cantons are ‘half cantons’ (Appenzell, Basel and Unterwalden). Each canton has its own constitution.


The picture above shows the division of Basel in 1833. The man representing the aristocratic-conservative bourgeois on the left  from Basel-City, draws a smaller slice than the man who represents the liberal peasant from Basel-Country.


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