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Geneva’s biggest celebration is L’Escalade (www.escalade.ch), commemorating the failed attempt by the Duke of Savoy to seize the town by surprise on the night of December 11–12, 1602. Locals dress up in costume and parade by torchlight around the streets with drums and fifes, groups of kids sing in city-centre cafés, and confectioner’s sell the Marmite d’Escalade, a small pot made of chocolate and filled with marzipan “vegetables” to commemorate a Genevan housewife who dispatched a Savoyard soldier by tipping her boiling soup over his head from a high window. A few days before is the Course d’Escalade, a fun-run through town.
Fireworks during the "Fêtes de Genève" (©_OTG / Walder)
Geneva’s Fourth-of-July celebrations for US Independence Day are the biggest in the world outside the States, and its Swiss National Day festivities, every August 1, are equally spectacular. The Fêtes de Genève (Geneva Festival) is the city’s premier annual pageant, held in early August on the waterfront, with music of all kinds, lovemobiles and techno floats on the lake, theatre, funfairs, street entertainers, stalls selling food from around the world, and an enormous lakeside musical fireworks display. During the last week of August and early September, La Bâtie Festival de Genève features live music and theatrical performances. Finally, Geneva’s famous Motor Show, held every March in the Palexpo arena, is the largest and most prestigious in Europe.