Life around the world

Wednesday, 3 February, 2016 - 10:52

Winning the galette des rois in France

by LauraB

One of the best things about moving to a new country is learning and experiencing its traditions. France and the UK are quite similar, however, so I didn’t think there would be any big cultural differences, let alone a whole religious festival! That was before I realized how important Epiphany is here in France.

In the UK it is not a religious holiday that is celebrated outside of churches. I knew a little bit about Epiphany, that it signifies the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus, but apart from that I wasn’t aware that it was so important in some countries. In my family its main significance is that it is twelve days after Christmas and you have to take down all the Christmas decorations otherwise you will have bad luck for the whole year. However in France, Epiphany is an important aspect of the January calendar (and there are still lots of Christmas decorations up, so I don’t think it is seen as bad luck here!).

A special cake is made called a galette des rois. It is pastry filled with an almond mixture called frangipane. Inside the cake is hidden a small ornament. Traditionally, the youngest has to go under the table and call out everyone’s names to decide who gets each slice. If you are the lucky receiver of the slice containing the ornament, you win! And you are given a gold crown to wear.

I work in a lycée in France and one day last week one of the teachers brought in a homemade galette des rois. I was the youngest person in the room, but fortunately I wasn’t made to go under the table and call out the names! I was enjoying my slice of the cake when suddenly I bit down on something hard and cold. It was a tiny little ceramic sheep. I had won! There was even a gold crown for me to wear. I actually felt a little embarrassed as I was the only person wearing a crown. I think it is more fun when you are younger!

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Are there any cakes in your country that are only made for special celebrations? 

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