The Austrian National Day
The celebration of the 26 of October as the Austrian National Day goes back to the beginnings of the 2nd Republic after WW II.
After the end of the War, Austria was occupied by the four Allied powers (Soviet Union, United States, Great Britain and France) and accordingly divided into four zones. With their consent an Austrian government was elected democratically, but every legislative regulation or political action required their consent.
The negotiations over a State Treaty ending this occupation could finally be brought to conclusion in the spring of 1955: the Austrian State Treaty was signed on 15 May 1955 in Vienna's Schloß Belvedere (maybe one of the most moving events in Austrian history) and entered into force on July 27 1955.
October 26 marks the day that followed the day on which the last foreign troops left the Austrian territory; therefore de facto the first day Austria was again an independent and sovereign country. As the status of permanent neutrality was the condition upon which the Sowjet Union had agreed to the signing of the State Treaty, the Austrian Parliament also chose this very special day to pass the law on permanent neutrality to mark the fact that it was taking a unilateral and independent decision.
The Federal Government celebrates this day every year with a series of events in Vienna:
- the Federal President and the Federal Minister for Defense attend a Mass on the Heldenplatz
- the Federal President followed by the Federal Government lay wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier in the Crypt of the outer Burgtor
- a festive meeting of the Council of Ministers is held
- the government attends a Concert for Austria at the Vienna Staatsoper and
- finally the new recruits of the Austrian Armed Service are sworn in.
The citizens are offered the possibility to visit the federal museums for free. Various institutions also traditionally open their doors for the day (ie. the Federal Chancellery). Around the country so called "marches for fitness" are organized to raise awareness among the population about the benefits of exercise and fitness.
Around the world the Austrian Embassies celebrate the National Day with receptions for the Austrian citizens.