Adapted from September 5, 2019
Hope you picked up extra groceries yesterday, or else you may have to skip across the border to France or canton Vaud. Yes, it’s Thursday, September 10, 2020, and another Le jeûne genevois is being marked with a school holiday and business/government closures. What is the history behind this cantonal (only celebrated in Geneva) holiday?
Le jeûne genevois is celebrated each year on the Thursday following the first Sunday in September. This holiday originated in October 1567 as a sign of solidarity with Protestants being persecuted in Lyon. Later on, it became a general day of penance and thanksgiving, and was also a day to fast. Fasting was practiced across Europe at that time as a way to remember famines, plagues, and other unfortunate events.
For Geneva, a tradition of eating a prune tart (as the only meal of the day), developed around the early 20th century (some scholars argue it was adopted earlier). As prunes are in season from August – September, it’s perhaps no surprise that this delicious treat became associated with the holiday. The money saved from not preparing a regular mid-day meal was also historically collected and offered to poor Geneva residents in solidarity.
Today, it’s an official cantonal holiday, so banks, schools, government offices and many businesses are closed. Enjoy a relaxed day and bake up a prune tart to celebrate this very niche Geneva holiday.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/