Smashing cauldrons and stockings hung by the fire


I’ve wanted to embrace some of the traditions of our culture here in Switzerland. One of the biggest festivals in the year in Geneva is Escalade. According to legend (or history, or whatever), the Duke of Savoy wanted to take over Geneva at the beginning of the 17th century. On the night of Dec 11, 1602, the French army marched on Geneva along the Arve river (which passes by my village). But the Genevois citizens would have none of it and turned the French army back. One of  the mythic figures of that night was Mere Royaume, who lived right above one of the gates to the city, caused a retreat by tossing a cauldron of hot soup onto the men trying to scale the wall (escalade, in French). I suspect it was the cauldron beaning them rather than the soup that did the trick, but that moment has been celebrated now for 400+ years here in Geneva.

The tradition now is to serve soup on the night of Escalade. Now children dress up in costume and go door to door for chocolate treats or money (kind of like Halloween, but it’s my understanding that the money is what really interests them. My tutor told me that was what funded her childhood piggy banks). Families also gather around a chocolate cauldron full of marzipan vegetables and smash it to bits. Well, the eldest and the youngest in the family do. But we let X have a go because he wouldn’t let go of the mallet, and I don’t trust E with that thing.


Do you think X enjoyed being given permission to smash the crap out of something with a mallet?

You bet he did.


I also want to incorporate some of my favourite traditions into our expat Christmas. That includes reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, eating fondue on Christmas Eve (what better place for it?) and hanging the stockings by the chimney with care. Stockings don’t appear to be a thing that they do here in Geneva – I haven’t been able to find any. So with newcomers coming in all over the place, I had to send out for a bunch of stockings to flesh things out.


I thought these were a cute idea – stockings that can be reused for anyone! They have a chalkboard tag on them, so whoever happens to be in the house that year has their own personalized stocking. This year they say Nana and Poppa – it makes me so happy! I ordered these from Maryland, I believe, through the Etsy store Anto Arts.


And then for little Miss E, I wanted to get her something really pretty. I found this lovely handcrafted one on Etsy at Katys Home Design. It’s from Latvia. It makes me laugh that I’m now ordering things from Latvia, but it certainly is lovely. Pretty enough to go with my pretty little girl. Compared to these, Z and I’s old stockings are starting to look a little tired (well loved?) X is constantly taking Z’s skate one down and skating around the room in it. I might have to keep on looking for new ones through the years.



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