Have you heard of the chocolate cauldron during Geneva’s Fête de l’Escalade?
This annual celebration commemorates the successful thwarting of the Duke of Savoy’s attempt to gain control over Geneva. It includes a unique food tradition that involves chocolate. You should not miss it if you find yourself in Geneva from early to mid-December.
Why do people smash the chocolate cauldron?
Each year, the citizens of Geneva take part in the tradition of smashing a chocolate marmite (cauldron). Decorated with the city’s colors — red and yellow, the cauldron also features its coat of arms. People typically smash it on December 12, and there is a specific ritual that accompanies this process. Within a family household, for example, the youngest and the oldest join hands and recite the phrase, “Ainsi périrent (or périssent) les ennemis de la République.” This translates to something like, “Thus perished (or perishes) the enemies of the Republic!” Then, they smash the chocolate cauldron with their clasped fists.
The attack of the Savoyards on Geneva took place during the evening of December 11, 1602. That night, when the soldiers arrived and the church bells sounded the alarm, the citizens of Geneva took it upon themselves to stop the invasion. Legend has it that Mère Royaume, a woman who was cooking a pot of soup, threw her cauldron and its scalding contents out the window to prevent the enemy from advancing. Although a rather violent act, it symbolizes the spirit of the Genevois during this battle. Regular citizens taking the initiative to protect their city! And, succeeding! To honor the occasion, chocolatiers in Geneva began creating cauldrons that are made of chocolate and filled with sweet little marzipan versions of Mère Royaume’s vegetables. The cauldron tradition apparently did not become established until the 1880s.
Where can you buy a chocolate cauldron?
The official Fête de l’Escalade takes place the weekend closest to December 11-12. Around this time, you’ll see chocolate cauldrons on display in the windows of chocolate shops throughout the city. Here are several chocolatiers in Geneva that make these special cauldrons.
- Auer Chocolatier
- Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Paganel
- Chocolat Rohr
- Chocolaterie Arn
- Du Rhône Chocolatier
- Martel Chocolatier
- Pâtisserie Berger-de Faletans
- Pâtisserie Ducret
You can also find them at supermarkets, like Manor or Migros, in Geneva.
For further reading:
- “Geneva’s History in a Chocolate Cauldron,” My Kugelhopf
- “L’Escalade,” Living Traditions – Federal Office of Culture
- “La Fête de l’Escalade,” Ville de Genève – official site
- “Marmite de l’Escalade,” Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse
- “History, culture and warm-heartedness: Geneva celebrates the Fête de l’Escalade,” House of Switzerland
Updated: May 10, 2022