Sounds crazy, but the Genevians go gaga over L’Escalade, a tradition commemorating Madame Royaume’s famous soup that saved the city from the Savoyard invasion in early hours on December 12, 1602.

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Genevians held off the Duke of Savoy’s invading forces with a little help from a housewife. According to legend the night guard, Isaac Mercier, rang the church bells alerting the local militia. But the real hero was Madame Royaume, mother of fourteen, living above the La Monnaie town gate. She poured a pot of scalding vegetable broth over the ramparts. The heavy cauldron hit a Savoyard’s head, killing him as he was scaling the wall. The commotion spurred the residents to action. Tables, chairs and other pieces of furniture flew over the wall that night as the Genevians fought to maintain their freedom from Savoyard rule.

Every mid December, the quiet Calvin city comes alive in a carnival atmosphere like a giant street party. The event entails various activities, street artists and vendors serving mulled wine and soup at outdoor stands. Shop windows, decorated in Geneva’s colors of red and gold, are filled with chocolate cauldrons, symbolizing Madame Royaume’s marmite, filled with candy vegetables made of marizipan.

On December 4, the festivities kicked off with the 33rd annual Escalade Race where over 22,000 participants ran or walked four miles up and down Geneva’s snow covered, cobblestone streets.

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During the weekend of Dec. 10-12, the prestigious Companie de 1602, the society founded in 1926, organizes one of the most beautiful historic events in Europe attended by 80,000 visitors. The highlight of the fight for independence over 400 years ago is three-hour torch lit parade led where 800 members in period costume re-inact the scene in Geneva’s Old Town. Musketeers, pipers, horsemen, drummers are accompanied by fire crackers and gun salutes.

Though I have smashed open a chocolate pot or two as tradition demands, we never fully joined the festivity of throngs of people crowding Geneva’s streets. Yet, I can’t help but savor the moral of that little Swiss story. Supermom, Mom saves the day again.