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© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi
© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi
© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi
© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi
© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi
© Netzwerk Schweizer Pärke / Janosch Hugi

Living traditions in Swiss parks

The parks at the service of their intangible cultural heritage
The cultural identity of the park regions is intimately shaped by practices that are passed down through generations and reflect a sense of continuity. These practices are called living traditions or intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

«Savoir-faire et faire savoir: traditions vivantes et biodiversité dans les parcs suisses»

Building with dry stone, experiencing the alpine pasture season, singing in a choir, maintaining the watchmaking know-how, telling tales and legends, celebrating Carnival or désalpe: the intangible heritage of the Swiss parks is rich and very much alive. Passed on from generation to generation, it evolves with time and represents an important part of Switzerland's cultural diversity. This heritage contributes significantly to the characteristics of the parks' landscapes, to the functioning of the local economy and it supports social and territorial cohesion. The parks are committed to maintaining, valuing and promoting these practices with the aim of staying living and innovative regions.

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)?

Heritage represents the cultural capital of contemporary societies.

The UNESCO elaborated the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. Ratified by Switzerland in 2008, it defines ICH as the practices, representations, expressions, know-how and skills that :
- Are recognized by communities as part of their heritage
- Are passed on from generation to generation
- Are recreated and practiced continuosly
- Provide communities and groups with a sense of identity and continuity
- Comply with human rights standards

ICH expressions are divided into 5 main categories:
- Oral traditions and expressions (e.g. songs and literature in dialect, yodeling, ...)
- Performing arts (e.g. popular dances and music, amateur theater, open-air cultural festivals, ...)
- Social practices, rituals and festive events (e.g. Bénichon, Carnival, outdoor barbecues, associative life, ...)
- Knowledge and practices related to nature and the universe (e.g.: mountain pasture season, wild plant harvesting, mountaineering, consortage in Valais, ...)
- Skills related to traditional crafts (e.g. watchmaking skills, wood carving, dry stone construction, paper cutting, ...)

Today the ICH faces important challenges, such as climate change and its consequences, biodiversity loss, migration, urbanization, economic inequalities. This is why it is important to care for and to share this heritage in order to promote a sustainable development - social, environmental and economic and to act for living together and peace.

Inventories of living traditions in Switzerland

In 2008, Switzerland adhered to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH. In this context, it established a national inventory of ICH. Eight expressions, such as the alpine pasture season or the mechanical watchmaking know-how, were then proposed for the Representative List of the ICH of Humanity maintained by UNESCO.

The following cantons maintain as well a cantonal inventory of their living traditions: AG/SO, BE, FR, UR, VS, VD.

The Swiss Culinary Heritage Association has also drawn up an inventory of Swiss products, specialities and culinary recipes - an interesting inventory of culinary know-how.

The Swiss parks are not to be outdone in terms of living traditions. Some of them have listed expressions of the ICH that are present on their territory: a non-exhaustive inventory in the parks.