After Christmas, Comes The Galette Des Rois

Hello again,
Being the end of the month of January, I’ve decided to do a little piece on galette des rois which basically means king cake. It’s history is associated with the ancient roman festival of saturnalia, where a  fava bean was  hidden in the galette, and this was used to choose the king of the day. Later on, it was associated with the Epiphany, which is a Christian holiday that celebrates the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. Traditionally, 12 days after Christmas.

Today, this tradition of eating the galette is practiced in several European countries and America. A little fève (usually a plastic or porcelain figurine) is normally hidden inside the galette des rois. An interesting fact I came across is that in the southern region of the United States, particularly Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, king cake is associated with Mardi Gras and is served during Carnival. It gave me a little more insight to this festival that I often see celebrated in the Caribbean Islands. However, since I am in a French territory, I will talk about it here and how the French do it.

So, on the first Sunday of January, the Epiphany arrives and so do the galettes des rois. Ideally, they were to be eaten only on this particular Sunday, but in the spirit of…eating galettes des rois, they are sold all month long, along with a paper crown. In most of France, it is made of a puff pastry filled with frangipane. However, a few variations such as brioche-style cakes in the south of France to shortbread-style cakes in western France exist. As for the fève (it could be a blue bear or a European city, yes yes I have found these two exact items), it is added somewhere in the cake and whomever finds it, is king(or queen) of the day.

How then, do they randomly select who gets the magical slice and gets to be royalty for the day? Because it is quite possible that the server could be biased, right? Annnd some people actually do collect these figurines. Well, the youngest member of the family goes under the table and says who gets what slice as they are cut. They are allowed to name themselves too. After all, it is fair game. It should be noted that le roi(king) or la reine(queen) are supposed to choose a royal counterpart who buys the next galette des rois.

And in the spirit of good business, I am told that there is apparently a bakery in France, that puts in a real piece of gold/ or diamond in one of their galette des roi and makes good sales as it attracts clientele who try and buy this one lucky galette des rois. It must really cause a frenzy. Can you imagine spending around 24 euros only to bite into a real gem in your cake? It is indeed an interesting tradition.

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  1. Nov 30, -0001 12:00 am