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Winter brings many decadent feasts and celebrations to cities around the world, and Geneva is no exception. For a particularly sweet festival in Switzerland, The Escalade is three days of chocolate and marzipan wrapped up in 17th century battle reenactments and fiery processions through the city.
The soup that saved a city
Midway through December, Geneva's old city transforms into an all-out celebration, hosting processionals through the streets, dramatic storytelling, music corps and plenty of eating and drinking. A common sight is chocolate caldrons filled with marzipan as well as women in 17th century garb carrying soup pots. They will most likely answer to the name of Mère Royaumes. The prevalence of cookware, chocolate and otherwise, can be traced back to a single night in Geneva's history.
On Dec. 11, 1602, the Duke of Savoy commenced an assault on Geneva while the city slept, hoping to reclaim a city that he once ruled. According to one version of events, as the the army scaled the walls, a housewife came across the invading soldiers, poured a pot of boiling soup on them and called the city to arms. While her discovery of the invasion seems apocryphal - the organization responsible for hosting the celebration cites a patrolling sentry as first responders to the assault - it is true that the entire city entered the fray, and it seems that a woman did, in fact, pour boiling soup on enemies to stave them off.
Reliving the past
That specific act of heroism is now reenacted on the second day of the festival. As vendors sell Mère Royaumes' soup, the city breaks their chocolate cauldrons and eats the shattered remnants. During this time, new members to the festival are welcomed.
The festival, however, isn't just a chance to enjoy chocolate. The Compagnie de 1602 has organized the celebration every year since 1926. They don't just commemorate the past, they make sure Geneva relives it. The old town is transformed into a 17th century version of itself complete with battle reenactments and period costumes. A historical procession kicks off the event, which culminates in a retelling of the day that Geneva's population saved the city.
Each day of the festival is packed with musket firings, dramatic storytelling, music, games and activities for all age groups. There will also be plenty of food and drink, from ham on the bone to chocolates and soup.
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