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Local traditions: “L’escalade a Geneve” #9

(This blog was meant to be posted on 13/12/14 – but silly moi saved it under drafts instead, anyhoo here it is)

C’est la Fete de L’escalade!

It’s the run up till Christmas, and instead of being greeted by the usual Christmas essentials in shop windows, shops in Geneva have been taken over by – how can I best describe it – these chocolate cauldrons of varying sizes. Some of them are honestly huge! Enough to feed a small army.

After much deliberation and confusion, I decided to ask the shop assistant what all these mysterious pots were for and if I could buy one.

She kindly chuckled and asked if I was new to the area, to which my reply was a confident and resounding “oui”. She proceeded to explain that “la fete de l’escalade” is an annual tradition in Geneva that takes place on the weekend of the 11-12th December.

This weekend of celebrations commemorates the defeat of the surprise attack of Charles Emmanuel I. At 2am troops gathered just outside the walls of Geneva. Now this is the interesting part, according to Genevois legend, a young boy ran through the streets and rang the church bells to alert everyone. An old lady who was cooking vegetable soup at the time, took this huge cauldron of hot brew and poured it down the cliff face over the troops.

This is why they sell these chocolate cauldrons with marzipan in the shape of vegetables to represent the hot soup that was poured on the troops!

It is also worth pointing out that “escalade” in French means to climb – so the whole tradition is about Genevan’s coming together to defeat the French troops from climbing the wall.

Having learnt a valuable part of Genevan history, I felt like a local when my English friends asked me what all this “escalade” business was about.

The parade throughout the old town on Sunday was amazing! Depsite the floods of rain, thousands of people came out to celebrate! Geneva is a very small city of approximately 190 000, and often feels so quiet, but tonight for one night only Geneva was buzzing!!

The procession throughout the old town, included music, bonfires, vin chaud (a lot, seemed justified as it was raining) and thousands of volunteers dressed in costume from local trades.

The night was so much fun, and has made me fall greater in love with Geneva and its quirky charms!

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