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History & Culture

Fête de l'Escalade

Fête de l'Escalade

Go back in time and discover Geneva’s most popular historical festival!

Once upon a time, on the night of 11-12 December 1602…

During the night, Geneva was stormed by the troops of the Duke of Savoy who sought to annex the city to France, but the Savoyards never succeeded in breaking through the ramparts thanks to the energy of Geneva’s citizens, and in particular the famous Mère Royaume (“Mother Kingdom”), whose story we will tell you a little later. 
Thus, for more than 400 years, Geneva has been celebrating this victory with sumptuous parades and period demonstrations that transport you for three days to the dawn of the 17th century.
All generations come together to enjoy the historical traditions, and great characters roam in every corner of the city, dressed in unique medieval costumes, parading on foot and on horseback. Children proudly carry their torches to the sound of drums and the great choir, where the whole town sings historical songs around a gigantic bonfire.
L’Escalade is THE top festival of living traditions in Geneva and takes place early December every year!

The story of Mère Royaume and the Chocolate Pot

Chocolate makers get busy for the Escalade festival as it is customary for Geneva’s residents to break a chocolate pot with family and friends and to gobble up the mouth-watering chocolate and the little vegetable-shaped marzipan sweets inside. But where does this tradition come from?
On the night of the attack in 1602, once the alert was given, Geneva’s citizens did their utmost to defend themselves and a certain Mère Royaume who was cooking a large pot of soup spilled her pot on the ramparts to prevent the enemies from climbing. This tradition pays tribute to her bravery and is enjoyed by young and old alike who delight in the delicious chocolate. 
You will find the famous pot in various sizes at all the best chocolate shops in Geneva. Before breaking yours, don’t forget to recite the ritual phrase of L’Escalade: “Thus perish the enemies of the Republic”! You are now a true Genevois!
Throughout the city, you can also drink bowls of steaming-hot soup to warm up.