Epiphany in France

by MPI Traveler on January 4, 2013

At this time of year, everywhere in France the windows of the bakeries and patisseries are filled with the cakes known as the Galette des Rois. The cake is part of the celebration of Epiphany, the time when the Three Wise Men first saw the baby Jesus. Throughout most of the country you eat the cake on January 6th – but don’t worry, this being a popular French delicacy, the cakes are made and sold throughout the whole month.

Different regions bake different cakes: in the north it’s a flat puff pastry cake filled with frangipane; in the south galettes are brioche rings decorated with glace fruit. Tradition dictates that the galette holds a fève, a dried bean. But like all traditions, this is subject to creative modernization. In 1991 Christian Lacroix designed seven hearts for the famous Parisian patissier Gaston Lenôtre (1920-2009), whereupon other top designers like  Yves St Laurent and Sonia Rykiel brought their talents to bear on the tiny trinkets.

During the tirage des rois (pulling of the cake) the person ‘pulling’ or finding the bean becomes king or queen for the feast, puts on a paper hat thoughtfully provided by the shop and can choose their partner. The alternative choice is to be king for the day, but that depends on your family and which tradition you choose to follow.

So buy your galette and good luck! And of course a Happy New Year to everyone.

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