Tomorrow, while the world counts down to the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, the people of Geneva will mark an additional occasion: the 200th anniversary of the fête de la Restauration de la République (celebration of the Restoration of the Republic).

On April 15, 1798, French troops entered Geneva; the annexation of the canton by France would last more than fifteen years, until 1813. On December 30, 1813, the last of Napoleon’s troops left Geneva, and the last French warden departed the next day. On December 31, 1813, the Restoration of the Republic of Geneva was declared.

Scenes from the 2013 restoration of the republic ceremony. Image credit: Tribune de Genève.

Scenes from the 2013 restoration of the republic ceremony. Image credit: Tribune de Genève.

I first learned of this holiday by accident. My family lives near the Old Town, and last year on December 31, I was sleeping in at home when a loud noise woke me up. Still half asleep, I thought, was that … a cannon firing? Indeed it was. The cannon fired 22 more times, helping make sure I would sleep no more that morning.

I wondered why cannons would be fired so early, so I did some investigating and read more about the significance of December 31 to the canton. I learned that each year, cannons fire 23 times (Switzerland has 23 cantons in total) promptly at 08:00 from La Treille, a public space at the edge of the Old Town overlooking Parc des Bastions. The cannon fire is followed by an official governmental ceremony at La Treille, a memorial service at the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre, and a concert in the cathedral. These events are open to the public.

Scenes from the 2013 restoration of the republic ceremony. Image credit: Tribune de Genève.

Scenes from the 2013 restoration of the republic ceremony. Image credit: Tribune de Genève.

Tomorrow’s fête de la Restauration de la République is the first of several important dates. December 31, 2013 marks 200 years since the restoration of the republic was declared; September 12, 2014 will be the 200th anniversary of the federal vote that confirmed Geneva, Fribourg, and Valais could join the Swiss Confederation; and May 19, 2015 will be the 200th anniversary of Geneva’s official entrance into the Swiss Confederation. A number of events are planned for each of these dates.

For more information on the upcoming 200th anniversary celebrations, go to ge200.ch. And if you live in or near the Old Town tomorrow, be ready for the cannons to fire promptly at 8:00!

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.

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