The History of Epiphany in France
Depending on whether Western or Eastern Christianity is practised will determine how the day is traditionally celebrated, and both ideas of Christianity are notably different. Western Christianity commemorates this event traditionally with a feast and a visit to Jesus’ physical manifestation, whereas Eastern Christians prefer to commemorate the baptism of Jesus instead and his manifestation as the Son of God. It is the Twelve Days of Christmas that actually mark the time between Christmas Day and this event. In France, the day is a huge celebration, centred around a delicious sweet treat, La Galette des Rois.
What is La Galette des Rois?
A La Galette des Rois, translated as ‘King Cake’ is a tart or pastry which must be divided so each guest gets a slice. The recipe itself is quite elaborate and when the tart is finished, it is decorated with intricate patterns. The tart is traditionally bought, and made of puff pastry and frangipane, though the type of Galette de Rois can vary depending on where you are in France. Northern France is where you will find the large puff pastry cake; in Provence, you may find the King Cake is a doughnut-shaped brioche draped with candied fruits.
This isn’t any ordinary cake, and isn’t just about having a little something sweet with your afternoon cup of tea. Rather, it is a very special ritual that even involves a small surprise, known as la fève.
What is La Fève?
Traditionally, the small surprise used to be a small bean (fève) and it was to be slipped into one of the dishes secretly, then, whoever found the bean in their dish was hailed King of the Feast!
As time went on, the bean ended up being replaced in 1870 by figurines that were made out of porcelain, though recently the material has been changed to plastic. Originally, these figurines were shaped as baby Jesus but now can be almost anything, which definitely adds to the intrigue.
Sharing out the slices is not done in the way you would expect either; a child, often the youngest in the party, is sent under the table and then proceeds to direct the server to whom to give the cake slices to. This means the person who ends up with the charm is chosen by chance.
Being named as King or Queen comes with privileges, such as keeping the charm, or getting out of the chores for the day. The King or Queen may also be assigned a special job, such as getting the King Cake for the next year. Many store-bought cakes also come with a golden crown the King or Queen can wear for the remainder of the day.
Read about the hidden gems in the South of France here.
Wherever you are when staying at our luxury holiday villas in France, the epiphany cake is an excuse for family and friends to come together. The cake is often served with cider, sweet white wine or a cup of tea. If you want to join in with the festivities, you will find it very easy to get hold of an epiphany cake, as they are usually sold in all bakeries in France throughout January. You can get your hands-on various styles and shapes which is a fun activity in itself.
Let us know via our social media channels if you join in with celebrating the Epiphany when holidaying in France in January! Share a snap with us and show us who found the la fève!
Here's a list of other related categories that you may wish to discover.Visit France