Rituals: Chocolate Cauldrons, Snow Flurries and Formal Attire

As I’ve written here before, change is the thing that doesn’t. Things are always changing but something I’ve not focused on entirely is the biggest change to all of us. In this cosmopolitan world, globalisation has us all thinking that we’re closer. More connected. When I don’t know that that’s entirely true. Perhaps we’re all listening to each other more but are we doing much of anything different? How much has our behaviour changed in this cross-cultural mass-communications forum? Questions for people with a broader scope and university grants, I should think.

What I’m trying to say, is that the virus changed everything because for the first time in a long time, everyone had to deal with the same thing. The virus is universal and everywhere and it’s thrust upon us very very difficult times. Uncertain times.

Working in education, where so many students feel uncertainty far more strongly than anybody else -especially those who are making their first real choices in life through a path into higher education- having to contend with such a powerful additional dose of entropy is incredibly challenging to contend with.

As much as we do for the boarders, they do so much for us in return. Putting on brave faces or outright helping to keep things together where they can. So many have been as much of a part of holding this community together as any staff by stoking the spirits of everyone here, staff or student, just the same.

In this uniquely international community, shared experience is very much at the centre of our foundation and that includes sharing the best of times and the worst and making it through, together.

Thrown in, mixed together. An alloy is always stronger than outright purity.

The snow fell thick last week. Thick and frosty, down from the peaks.

The snow brings about change. Mostly in gardening expenses as a tree has shattered from the weight of the virgin snow.


The snow fell thick over the last week. There are few who would think of it as not being unlike a sheet of white paper, a symbol of a fresh start with the advent of the new year. The old ground covered by a perfect sheet to be withdrawn like a magician’s silk handkerchief. And alakazam! A brand new world. Filled with new chances.

That image is one we don’t discourage here. As much as the snow might just be a covering that can’t undo. We think of it as an encouraging sign that things that have been, need not continue to be as such. Efforts can be renewed and brought in from the cold as we near the spring.

But before the spring, the winter gets its share. And to pay to tribute to the season, boarders and staff alike at CDL enjoy each others company at the annual Christmas Dinner.

Two of our Olympus boys, Alexandre (centre left) and Victor (centre right) are joined by fellow CDL boarders Gabriel (left) and Milla (right) in a black and white format as formal as their sharp attire.


It’s an event that provides not just an atmosphere of levity, but a touch of formal ritual that can add meaning to the changing of seasons and lend itself as a platform for the elevation of the usual cheer that follows any CDL gathering.

‘Yuletide Cheer’ (2021) Digital Photography

Aleksei enrapturing the rest of the Olympus boys at his table in a story.

A mature and pensive attitude is present during the entrées for Azamat and Alexandre.

Aleksei, Kirill, Nikita, Maksim and Ilya anticipate the next course.

Rayan, Boris, Victor, Bruno and Nikita enjoy the atmosphere

Victor has gotten separated from the group and appears to have fallen in with some other splendid CDL boarders.


A delightful affair, un-dampened by the circumstances. As I’ve said before, the boarders really do the heavy lifting in these gatherings. Doing each other the favour of each others company. Reminding everyone of the community they have here. As tough as times can get, the net they grow here between each and everyone of them will catch them no matter what happens.

Aleksei (the youngest) and Boris (the oldest) bring down a deadly rolling pin upon the chocolate effige of the legendary cauldron.


And speaking of bonding rituals, CLD being within the borders of the canton of Geneva, we pay respect to the most famous and important custom in the region. The smashing of the chocolate cauldron to commemorate the thwarted nocturnal invasion of the city by the French Savoyars mercenaries who tried to conquer the Protestant city for the Duchy’s Christian rule. 2,000 commandos were sent in the dead of night wearing woollen foot-wraps to scale the defensive walls of the great city. But were thwarted by a variety of different things depending on who tells the tale.

A boy chasing a chicken? A young man returning from his forbidden love’s home? A lame dog, lost in the woods or the ghost of Saint Martin himself. Whoever alerted the watchmen, did so. And the heavy ropes that held the city gates were severed and the city gates were sent crashing down upon the mercenaries and despite their hooked ladders, citizens and militiamen fought alongside each other to defeat the stragglers and send them home either dead or in shame.

And in the middle of the melee, a woman hefted her boiling cauldron from the window of her apartment and sent it plummeting down upon a Savoyard soldier, burning him horrifically and forcing him into a life of touring freak shows or simply killing the man, depending on who tells the tale.

And so a milk-chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables is broken open as a sacrifice to the spirit of those who defended Geneva from invasion. The youngest in the household and the oldest; unite in breaking open the cauldron and then all are invited to gorge upon the sweet entrails of the confection.

The chocolate cauldron is shattered by the might of shared force. LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!

It’s good fun.

We’re all from different places with different ideas. This season is one that is subject to many rituals. From the pagan rituals of the equinox, to simply the advent of the new years. Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas or Father Winter. The spirit remains. All of us, together. United against the cold within ourself and at our doors.

With a joke or with a helping hand, there are many ways to take a turn and stoke the fire around which we all gather.

Wishing you the best of the best from Olympus Boarding House over this winter season.


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