Fête de l’Escalade, Geneva 2010…

Last Sunday, I got to see the grand procession which is part of the Fête de l’Escalade in Geneva. Loosely translated, it means ‘Celebration of the Scaling’ as “escalade” means to climb or scale a ladder in French. So, guess you’ll know what is THE most important item in this procession or parade 🙂

The Fête de l’Escalade is held every year in December to commemorate and celebrate the Genevese victory over the surprise attack on Geneva city by the Savoyard troops of Charles Emmanuel I, the Duke of Savoy in 1602. The attack happened on the nights of 11-12 December at 2.00am…and so the Fête is held every December during the weekend around that dates. It so happened that this year’s 11-12 December fell nicely on the weekend. It lasted for three days, from Friday until Sunday … and during that three days several activities were organised at the old town. But the highlight of the Fête is … of course, the grand procession which started around 5.00pm on Sunday when it is dark.

This was my first time watching the night procession and I must say that despite the very cold temperature and the fact that I was not properly dressed for it (as we had just came back from visiting the parents in France) … I enjoyed watching the procession … very, very much. It was too bad that we did not bring the hubby’s camera to capture the mood and atmosphere of the Fête … but luckily we still had my old camera to do the job! Well … better some pictures (even if they are not so good) than nothing at all … right? So … do enjoy the photos.

And if you like to watch a video clip on the Fête de l’Escalade on swissinfo.ch, you can click here.

Fête de l'Escalade

The crowds at the old town … last Sunday evening.

Fête de l'Escalade

A music procession … through the old town, before the main parade.

It was interesting to see the buzz of activities when the participants were getting ready for the grand procession. About 800 participants (of all ages) and 60 horses (not forgetting the sheep and dogs) were involved! The procession and the festivities for the Fête were organised by an association called Compagnie de 1602.

Fête de l'Escalade

the dames 

Fête de l'Escalade

the gents …

Fête de l'Escalade

the horses …

Fête de l'Escalade

the sheep …

Fête de l'Escalade

… all getting ready for the big event!!

And not forgetting the star of the parade … the ladders!! 🙂 (Hmmm … notice the shoes with the strange flaps? Every little detail on the costumes worn by the participants, from head to toes … is the original reproduction of that period!)

Fête de l'Escalade

And then, there were these lanterns sold at CHF 5 per piece, just before the start of the procession. They were mainly for children … and certainly added to the festive atmosphere … when it got dark.

Fête de l'Escalade

Okay, okay … so we are no longer children but since we are still young at heart … we decided to do our part and bought one, anyway. 🙂  It is also a nice memento of the event.

The participants of the grand procession and the fringe festivities were not the only ones who dressed up for the Fête … some children decided to dress up, too!

Seemed a strange costume to wear for such an event, don’t you think?

Ahh … these are more like it. Two little ones, all dressed up like medieval knights … complete with swords!

And then the grand procession starts … you can just feel the excitement in the air … as everyone tried to find a good spot so as to see the procession better. We had to walk quite far from the starting point which became quite crowded when the procession was about to start. Nevertheless, we managed to find a good spot and were able to see everything very clearly.

Fête de l'Escalade  

Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

The procession ended with a victory song being sung, by the participants and every Genevese who can remember the lyrics (including the hubby, who unfortunately could no longer remember the whole lyrics after staying in Lausanne for 10 years! hik,hik,hik 🙂 ) … followed by a huge applause after that.

By the way, one of the most popular items on sale during the Fête and the days leading to it … is the “Marmite de l’Escalade”. It is actually chocolate in the shape of a big pot or cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables and some crackers with sweets inside.

La marmite de l'Escalade

A modest size La Marmite that we bought last year … costing about CHF 100. I was actually aiming for a bigger size Marmite … until I heard the price!! Wah … not cheap lah these marmites!!!!

The marmite is to commemorate the action of a lady known as “Mère Royaume”(wife of Pierre Royaume), who had lived just above the La Monnaie town gate. According to the legend, during the historic battle “Mère Royaume” had seized a large cauldron of hot soup and poured it on the attackers when they were trying to scale the city wall.  The heavy cauldron of boiling soup landed on the head of a Savoyard attacker, killing him and the commotion that this caused helped to rouse the Genevese to defend the city. (I believe you could see “Mère Royaume” walking with her marmite, in one of the picture, above)

And so … that is reason why the marmite is so popular during the Fête de l’Escalade.

La marmite de l'Escalade

A huge one that we saw on a window display that night. I think this one must surely cost several hundreds francs … given the size and the more intricate design on it … complete with Mère Royaume throwing her cauldron of hot soup over the window!!

In fact, at the end of the Course de l’Escalade  held a week earlier before the Fête de l’Escalade (the race that the hubby had taken part), it is a Genevese tradition for the runners to smash la marmite to celebrate the end of the Course … and of course to eat the chocolates! That’s right … you don’t break the chocolate pot … you must smash it, ideally with a long sword. It’s the tradition!!! They even sing a special song before smashing la marmite.

But last year when we bought it to share during the father’s birthday, we could not find any long sword to smash open the Marmite … so, we had to improvise.

La marmite de l'Escalade

We used a big chopper knife … instead! muahahahaa … I know, I know … it is not as elegant … but it did the job … just as well 🙂

La marmite de l'Escalade

Don’t the marzipan vegetables inside the La Marmite look really cute?

Related entries on l’Escalade:

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