Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

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!

Discussion

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

Comments

gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 14 February, 2016 - 09:45

Yes, there are, Unlike Pho ( rice noodles) and Nem ( Spring rolls ), Chung cakes ( Square sticky rice cakes) are only made for a special celebration ( Lunar New Year eve ). They are made of rice, bean, meat and wrapped with special leaves. They represent existences of plants and animals. ( The Vietnamese ancient believed that the earth was square ). Actually, Chung cakes originated from a legend and have become popular after they helped a princess win in a contest.

1)To cut a Chung cake is not easy at all, you can't cut it with a knife, you have to 'cut' it with a small rope made of bamboos. ( This is a good chance for you to find out who is clumsy and clever !).

2) To cook Chung cakes is quite challenging as you have to stay up all night to look after them. ( I can't tell you how to cook them since my eyes don't allow me to observe all stages.)
Vietnamese people often lay the most tasty cake on the altars so that their ancestors can join with them. ( We are a bit superstitious.).

Chung cakes, together with other kinds of Vietnamese cuisine, have created our unique customs, They distinguish Vietnamese culture from others. All of us believe that New Year only comes when every family has Chung cakes.

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youaretheonlyone29's picture
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youaretheonlyone29 16 February, 2016 - 11:56

Cooking Chung cake is definitely a tough process. I had a chance to cook it this Tet holiday. I was sitting and waiting for about 10 minutes then my eyes couldn't open anymore :)) It is hard '.'

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 22 February, 2016 - 14:47

haha me too, I was only able to wait about 15 minutes, then I felt asleep and my eyes couldn't open. Finally, my uncle urged me to go to bed !
That's why when enjoying tasty Chung cakes, we respect people who made them.

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 15 February, 2016 - 12:11

I'm verry sorry for my mistake. May I correct it ?
" Chung cakes originated from a legend and have become popular since it helped a prince ( not princess ) win in a contest. (*^*).

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