Have you noticed chocolate marmites (cauldrons) popping up in Geneva’s bakery/patisserie windows? Observed that this morning’s school run looked like Halloween, with children wearing costumes of all kinds? Yes, it’s time again to celebrate this very local holiday, albeit on a smaller scale.

While the traditional children’s parades, Course de l’Escalade, and historic parade through the Old Town are cancelled this year, you can still support the Compagnie 1602 by buying a marmite from specific chocolatiers and bakeries. You can learn more below about the original event (418 years ago!) that inspires Escalade today. Read on!

L’Escalade commemorates the successful defense of Geneva during the night of December 11, 1602, when the Duke of Savoy ordered 2,000 soldiers to attack the ramparts. At the time, Geneva was coveted by the Savoyards, and the Duke of Savoy (Charles-Emmanuel I) intended to make the city his capitol north of the Alps. Known for his rashness and military aggression, he ordered his troops to climb Geneva’s city walls around 4:00 am, all wearing heavy armour.

The alarm was sounded at 4:30 am, and all the bells of St. Peter’s Cathedral rang out to wake Geneva’s citizens. Soldiers, but also regular men and women, streamed from their homes to defend Geneva with any tool or weapon at their disposal. Including, in a now legendary example, a large pot of boiling vegetable soup, flung out of her window by Mère Royaume onto a Savoyard soldier below. In 1881, chocolate marmites were first created to honor her bravery.

The Savoyards lost 54 men throughout the night, and many more were captured, representing a total defeat. Geneva, on the other hand, lost 18 citizens but celebrated the safekeeping of their city.

Next year’s Escalade race is already scheduled for December 4-5, 2021. The following weekend (December 10-12), will mark the return of the traditional procession and other events, organised by the Compagnie 1602.

Consider learning the lyrics to the song Cé qu’è l’ainô, Geneva’s official anthem, written in 1603 in honor of the previous year’s battle.

And last, don’t be too precious about the marmites, as beautiful as they can be. They’re meant to be smashed to pieces before enjoying:

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at  http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/