Sunday, December 13, 2009


This weekend, one of Geneva’s biggest events took place. L’Escalade is the annual celebration of the defeat of the surprise attack by troops sent by the Duke of Savoy during the early mornings of December 12th, 1602. The Savoyards marched on Geneva and tried to enter the city walls by scaling tall ladders (a climb in French is an “escalade”). The night guard in Geneva rang the church bells to alert the townspeople, who joined the fight. According to Genevois legend, a local mother of 14 children who lived above the city gates, seized a large cauldron of hot soup and poured it on the attackers. This heavy soup landed on the head of a Savoyard attacker, killing him. This commotion further roused the townspeople. Only a few of the Savoyards were able to enter the city gates. The rest became confused and cold. They were all forced to retreat. During the attack, the Genevois lost 18 men during the attack while the Savoyards suffered 54 fatalities. Thirteen invaders who were taken as prisoners during the attack where hung the next day as thieves.

Modern day celebrations of the attack from 1602 take place throughout the weekend closest to December 12th. People break chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables and candies wrapped in the Geneva colors of red and gold. It is customary for the youngest and oldest person to hold hands and break the cauldron while reciting Ainsi périssent les ennemis de la République! " (Thus perish the enemies of the Republic). Other traditions include hot, spiced wine, vegetable soup, and children in Halloween- like costumes singing Escalade songs for money. There is also a massive running race the weekend before all the other Escalade celebrations. While Jignesh I were unable to participate in the road race last weekend (we were experiencing some jet lag from our trip back from the states), we did attend some of this weekend’s events. We sampled some of the yummy veggie soup and joined thousands in watching the Sunday evening parade. The parade portrayed many of the individuals from that night in 1602 including the local housewife and her 14 children, the attackers of the Savoyard, and the Genevois militia on horseback and holding tourches. All were dressed in period costumes and carried lifelike weapons from that time period. There were even characters that represented the attackers who where hung, complete with shackles and nooses around their necks! Who needs a Mickey Mouse parade when you can have fire, nooses, cannons, and 10 foot spears!
Au Revoir.

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