After Jesus was born, the newborn child and his mother were visited by the Three Wise Men from the East.
The genesis of the holiday
After Jesus was born in a nativity scene in Bethlehem, the Three Kings came to the scene: Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. The kings, also called magicians, came to bow down to the newborn and bring him gifts such as myrrh, frankincense and gold. Another name for the holiday is l'ephiphanie, or revelation. Like Christmas, the holiday commemorates the coming to earth of Christ, that is, God in the flesh. The feast of the Epiphany is one of the five great cardinal feasts of the Catholic liturgical year.
Epiphany in France: general information
In France, January 6 is not a day off, which does not prevent the French from celebrating in a specific way. Every year on this day a special cake is eaten. Interestingly, religious French people do not always spend part of the day attending mass. Sometimes they simply cannot! Why? ... January 6th is not a public holiday, therefore people have less time if the date falls on a working day. With this in mind, the church organizes a holiday celebration on the Sunday closest to this date.
La fête des Rois
Although January 6th is not a day off in France, the French celebrate in a very distinctive way. Every year on this day, a special cake is eaten and a celebration of fun is held.
Surprise cake - Galette des Rois
Galette des Rois is an effective almond baking. The filling is usually covered with a braid made of dough strips or a decorative, squeezed decoration. Galette des Rois consists of two layers of puff pastry filled with almond cream (frangipane). The cake has a buttery flavour. In addition, it is not ordinary, because there is a surprise hidden inside, called feve. Initially, it was made of broad beans or beans, or almonds. After some time, the old habits disappeared and mainly figurines of various types were placed in the dough. And so, feves which could be found in the cake are the figurines of Casper, Melchior or Balthazar, or also Joseph, Mary and Jesus. The custom of placing figurines in a cake appeared as early as the 18th century. As with most cultural phenomena, fashion and political events are also important here. In the contemporary Galette des Rois you can find figurines depicting characters from pop culture. In France, some people are so fond of finding figurines in a dough that they started collecting them.
The meaning of the figurine in the cake
The banqueter who finds the figurine in the cake is immediately proclaimed king. A crown is attached to the cake, which he or she has the right and even obligation to put on. The lucky one is from now on called almond king or queen. Where did this name come from? ... In the past, a more common practice than now was to put almond (la feve) in the cake. It must be emphasized that the almond king or queen had not only rights but also duties. The banqueter distinguished in this way was obliged to bake another sheet of cake or to provide tasty food for the rest of the feasters.
Fabophilie, or collecting figurines
Some French become so attached to the role of king or queen that they start collecting figurines. These are the so-called fabophiles. There is an Association de Fabophiles Francais in the country. Its members organize exhibitions and exchanges of figurines. They also study the history of the individual feves series found in cakes. The production of historical feves is frequently re-launched, which is a treat for collectors. The most characteristic type of figurine found in royal cakes is the so-called santons. They show nativity scenes and religious figures.
Slicing the cake and other customs related to it
Slicing a royal pie is almost as unusual as the custom with figurines. The youngest banqueter covers his eyes or hides under the table and announces who the piece of cake is to be cut for. Games of this type are organized both at home and at school. When it comes to the fun that takes place at school, the cake is cut for classmates and it is difficult to identify who is the youngest. According to the former custom, the dough is cut into as many parts as there are persons in the household, and an additional portion is left for the poor man. Such a piece of cake is traditionally called "God's portion" or "Virgin Mary portion."
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