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Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

Dec 10, 2021Dec 12, 2021
Various locations,
Geneva
Free

Fête de l'Escalade, also known as l’Escalade or Escalade, is Geneva's festival of the people! It is an opportunity to celebrate the history of Geneva, including torchlight parades in period costumes, commemorating the city's escape from capture in 1602. On December 10-12, 2021, Geneva marks the 419th anniversary of this event!

Over three days, the events of the Battle of Escalade, are acknowledged, with historic reenactments, parades and street festivities. This year is likely to be a little different, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but still as fun as ever.

Fête de l'Escalade Geneva Switzerland

The background of Escalade

The night of the attack known as Escalade, which took place on the night of December 11 to 12, was a failed attempt at capturing the protestant city of Geneva by Charles Emmanuel, the catholic Duke of Savoy. He intended to take Geneva by surprise by having his troops scale the defensive walls using ladders. This surprise attack in the night was cut short, thanks to numerous acts of bravery by the inhabitants of Geneva.

The most famous of these acts was by a cook called Catherine Cheynel, known as la Mère Royaume, who threw a boiling cauldron of vegetable soup on the attackers. This helped to rouse the townspeople to defend their city. The cauldron (marmite in French) has become a symbol of the Escalade festivities, conveying the initiative by ordinary citizens to defend their city.

Celebrating Escalade in the 21st century

Over three days, scenes of everyday life in Geneva at the turn of the 17th century are recreated. The public can treat themselves to soup, mulled wine and, of course, Swiss chocolate. Young children of Geneva often dress up in costumes and go knocking on neighbours’ doors singing Escalade-themed songs in return for candy. Schoolchildren often prepare soup at school, which is served to their families, as part of neighbourhood celebrations.

chocolate cauldron Geneva Switzerland

Cauldrons made from Swiss chocolate

Escalade would not be complete without getting your hands on Swiss chocolate cauldrons filled with vegetable-shaped marzipan candies in memory of the soup-throwing incident. These chocolate pots became part of the tradition in the 1880s. According to custom, the oldest and the youngest in the family (or group of friends) break the pot together, usually by stamping on it, while declaring "Ainsi périrent les ennemis de la République! " (Thus perished the enemies of the Republic). 

When you buy a chocolate cauldron, a certain percentage of the cost is donated to Compagnie de 1602, the main historical society in Geneva, and the organisers of the official commemoration of the Escalade. The chocolatiers where chocolate cauldrons are available are:

  • Auer Chocolatier
  • Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Paganel
  • Chocolat Rohr
  • Chocolaterie Arn
  • Du Rhône Chocolatier
  • Martel Chocolatier
  • Pâtisserie Berger-de Faletans
  • Pâtisserie Ducret

Escalade Run

Some locals celebrate with the Escalade Run (Course de l'Escalade), a road-running event with different races for various age groups, taking place on the closest Saturday to the night of December 11. This run begins at the Parc des Bastions and continues through the old city of Geneva. There’s also a costume race for young and old, known as Course de la Marmite

Plan your visit to Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade is well worth a visit, so plan your trip to Geneva, whether you're driving or taking public transportation. Check out the Geneva visitor information website for more information.