samedi 7 janvier 2006

Today is Epiphany, a tradition celebrated here in France. The term comes from the greek term signifying apparition. It is by varying accounts, the day when Jesus was presented to the three kings or wise men (Melchior, Gaspard, and Balthazar), the date of the baptism of Christ, the day of the first miracle (turning water into wine at the wedding) and the Eastern Orthodox christmas.
The galette differed according to the regions: for example it was made of puff pastry in Paris, but made of brioche and shaped as a crown in Provence. Under Louis XIV, the Church considered this festival as a pagan celebration and as an excuse for indulgence, and it was subsequently banned. To get around this ban, it became la fête du bon voisinage (literally, 'neighbourly relations day'). This culinary tradition even survived the French Revolution when it became the ‘Gâteau de l’Êgalité (the equality cake), as Kings were not very popular in those years!

The galette de rois (or cake of kings) comes from the 14th century and is supposedly cut into as many portions as there are guests, plus one. This extra piece is given to the first poor person that they come across and is called the "part de Bon Dieu" or "part de la Vierge". Inside the cake is hidden a bean (une fève) signifying fertility, or a small object, such as a Santon, see previous entry. The person who has this piece in their portion is the King or Queen of the day and wears a crown - like the cardboard Burger King Crowns. It used to be that the person who found it had to buy a round of drinks, pay for that cake, or pay for the cake next year.

This sometimes resulted in stingy behaviour and to avoid buying a round of drinks, the potential King or Queen very often swallowed the bean! This is why towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the lucky charm started being made of china.

The youngest person in the room (usually a child) hides under the table and shouts out which guest each slice of cake should be given to. The person who finds the fève in their slice of galette becomes the King or Queen and is given a golden paper crown. The King or Queen then has to choose his Queen or her King, by dropping the lucky charm in their glass.


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