Sunday, December 14, 2008

Parade night

Today was the last day of the Escalade festivities. It was so cold that the city was able to make a skating rink and a cross-country ski course for kids in the Parc des Bastions and a downhill ski slope on the steep road that goes from Place Neuve up into the Old Town. All made out of real snow packed down by an army of mini snowplows parked along the side of the street.

The last night of Escalade is the most fun. Starting at dusk, the Compagnie de 1602 puts on a historical parade that stops at strategic locations throughout the Old Town and the surrounding area to read the proclamation that Geneva sent to King Henry IV of France and the governors of Berne, Dauphiné and Lyon upon the victory over the Savoyards. The proclamation briefly describes the attack against the city and requests celebration of the Genevan victory.

Shortly before the parade starts, vin chaud (for the adults) and lanterns (for the kids) are sold up and down the streets.

It gets dark quickly in the winter, so by 5pm, it's time for the parade to start. First the Genevan flag comes by:

Then come the town officials:

(Yes, that is fire -- the parade is mostly lit by firelight.)

(I love the purple stockings!)

And then the musicians:

It's cold at night in December -- I don't know how they keep their fingers nimble!

Next we have an army of townspeople:

And little kids:

Carrying whatever might be useful in a fight:

And here is la Mère Royaume with her pot of soup:

And, finally, the soldiers:

By this point it was too smoky from all the torches and burning hay to take any more pictures. Once the parade has made its way around the Old Town, an enormous bonfire is lit in the square in front of the cathedral. (The Swiss are rather enamored of bonfires. Any time there's a holiday, there's bound to be a bonfire.)

That's all until next year...

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