This Thursday, 5 September, the people of Geneva will recognize Jeûne genevois, a cantonal holiday that falls on the Thursday after the first Sunday of the month of September.
Historically, the day was a time for religious and patriotic fasting dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Jeûne genevois is frequently, yet erroneously, linked to the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots; cantonal records indicate fasting was observed in present-day Geneva prior to 1572, in the late 1400s.
Between 1560 and 1570, Genevois fasted in recognition of the persecution of protestants in nearby Lyon, France. Later, during the Geneva revolution and French occupation of the area, Jeûne genevois was celebrated as a patriotic holiday.
Between 1869 and 1965, Jeûne genevois was not an official public holiday, although citizens still recognized it informally. Then, the Act of 8 January 1966 established a day of fasting in Geneva falls on the Thursday after the first Sunday of the month of September.
Today, Jeûne genevois is celebrated as a secular public holiday. According to the Canton of Geneva’s website, “Pour la plupart des Genevois, l’occasion de profiter des derniers rayons de soleil de l’été” – “for most of Geneva, it is a chance to enjoy the last rays of summer sun.”
One tradition that has held over time is the eating of plum pie on Jeûne genevois. The dish used to be the only thing served on the holiday to break the fast; for present-day residents of Geneva, plum pie is commonly served at holiday meals for dessert.
Federal fasting: The rest of Switzerland marks a day of fasting (Jeûne fédérale) in September on the third Sunday of the month. In cantons Vaud, Neûchatel, and parts of Bernese Jura, the Monday after the Jeûne fédérale (Lundi du Jeûne) is a public holiday.
Store closures: Most businesses and stores will be closed on Jeûne Genevois. Be sure to buy anything you will need on Thursday by Wednesday! If you’re taken by surprise or need to buy groceries and/or other essentials on Thursday, the Migros at the Geneva International Airport stays open on public holidays.
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