15 August – National Day in Liechtenstein

Photo by Arjan

Why does Liechtenstein celebrate its Staatsfeiertag (national day) on 15 August? The Assumption of Mary, on 15 August, has always been a feast day and also in Liechtenstein, a Catholic country, people had the day off. Fürst (Prince) Franz Joseph II had taken over the throne from his uncle Fürst Franz I in 1938. In 1938 and 1939 the Nazis had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, where the family had lots of property. Franz Joseph II decided therefore to take up residence in his principality – the first Fürst of Liechtenstein to do so permanently. On 30 May 1939 the people of Liechtenstein celebrated their Fürst, wanting to keep their principality independent. The principality remained unoccupied throughout World War II.

The first Staatsfeiertag – also called Fürstenfest (Feast of the Fürst, Prince) – took place in 1940. Only on 5 August 1940 the 15th of August was declared the national day. The Assumption of Mary on 15 August and the birthday of the Fürst on 16 August, were since celebrated together on 15 August. On 15 August 1940 there was a church service with Fürst and government, and a serenade for the Fürst, that he watched from the balcony of the building of the Liechtensteinischer Landtag in Vaduz. Also on 16 August 1940 there was a service and many came to Vaduz Castle to congratulate the Fürst with his birthday. 1941 the day unfortunately was celebrated without the Fürst who had broken his arm in an accident when returning home from Vienna, Austria, but usually the princely family was present on this special day. Only in 1990, after Franz Josephs death (November 1989), 15 August was declared the official national day. The present Fürst Hans Adam II celebrates his birthday on 14 February.

For many years the day combined religion and politics. Only in 2011 the traditional religious service on the lawn next to Vaduz Castle was removed from the programme. After the government had decided to separate church and state, the Archbishop no longer wished to hold a mass on the national day. What remains is the act of state (since 1990 on the lawn) with speeches of Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein and the President of the Parliament, followed by a aperitif in the Rose Garden of Vaduz Castle. In the afternoon and evening there are celebrations all over the centre of Vaduz. In the evening the mountain-top fires are lightened and a torch-lit procession takes place. There also is a very nice firework display.

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