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Queen for a day

If you’re feeling the post-holiday blues—or simply want an excuse to keep your Christmas decorations out a little bit longer—then don’t forget that this Friday, January 6th, is Epiphany.  This holiday recalls the visit of the magi to the young Christ.

For many years in France, l’Épiphanie was more celebrated than Christmas.  Today, it is still celebrated with a special pastry, which is called the galette des rois.   Depending on the region, the galette is made of puff pastry and filled with almond paste (marzipan) or it is a brioche in the form of a crown.  A fève (a small plastic or porcelain figurine) is hidden in the pastry.  The custom is for the youngest child in the family to hide under the table and call out the name of each family member in turn to be served a piece of the pastry.  Whoever gets the piece with the figurine is crowned king or queen (with a paper crown) and gets to choose his or her royal consort from among the others present. 

A porcelain fève: La Modiste (Fashion designer).  Read France 2017.

Feves

A collection of porcelain fèves.  Read France 2017.

Modern fèves come in all shapes and sizes, as do the galettes.  Check out these links for some interesting pics:  http://niniefeves.centerblog.net/2.html and https://www.pinterest.com/readfrance/galette-des-rois.  You just might be inspired to become a “fabophile” or collector of fèves.  If you don’t have a French bakery nearby, be adventurous and try making your own galette: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/80734/galette-des-rois.

 Galette des rois par Lionel Allorge — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24505374

Par Lionel Allorge — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24505374

These Epiphany traditions evolved from the Roman feast of Saturnalia when, according to some sources, a slave was designated as king of the household for a day through the same process of finding a fève in a piece of cake.  Early fèves were merely black or white beans.  Over the years, and with the influence of the Church, the bean turned into a porcelain figurine of the infant Jesus.  Centuries later, in the French royal court, the lady who received a fève was made queen for the day and could make special request of the king.  (Alas, this tradition ended during reign of Louis XIV, perhaps due to pressure from the real queen). 

During the French Revolution, the galette des rois was reincarnated as galette de la Liberté.  It no longer contained the fèves because who needed monarchs anyway? While its name has since been restored, the galette served annually to France’s president omits the fèves.  No, this was not at the recommendation of the president’s dentist; it is rather a reminder that the constitution forbids him from taking up the cloak of a monarch.

The galette des rois is a fun family tradition to look forward to after Christmas.  With many small children, it can sometimes be a very interesting tradition watching the rise and fall of a monarch.  Crowned, reigning and then deposed, all in the course of an hour.  Toddlers sometimes find the transitions too much to bear; just as they begin settling into this new role, their reign of terror comes to an end, and it is bedtime!  Whether your company is young or old though, it’s the idea that counts—the idea of an hour when anyone can be king or queen—and when everyone is deemed worthy of the opportunity ;)

La couronne

Photo of paper crown.  Read France 2017.

 



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