The art of flag-twirling is still demonstrated at traditional folk festivals in particular. It is one of the oldest national sports in Switzerland.
The origins of flag-twirling can be traced back to very beginning of human history. Among the Lombards, a Germanic people, it was customary to give a banner to their own military troops. These standards, or flags, were initially purely symbolic in nature, in order to boost troop morale.
In medieval times, flag-twirling was used during religious, civil and military celebrations. Flag-twirling schools were founded across Europe in the 15th century. These went on to develop the exact rules and regulations of flag-twirling. Military flag-twirling fell out of favour by the end of the 19th century. Yet flag-twirling is once more growing in popularity in various European countries.
Today’s Swiss flag-twirlers compete in traditional attire and with a Swiss or cantonal flag in front of a four-person jury. There are individual performances and duets. Group performances are only held for the purposes of entertainment, often to the accompaniment of traditional alphorn music. During competitive flag-twirling, most frequently carried out at yodelling and twirling festivals, all the twirls and moves are performed right and left. There are 99 different movements, from body and plate tosses through to high tosses. A performance lasts three minutes and the flag-twirler starts with a point score of 30. A point is deducted for every error.