What is the Galette des Rois and why do the French celebrate it?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A few days ago we told you where you can purchase the Galette des Rois in Australia but do you know the history of the day and why it is eaten? Read on to find out.

In France, the Christian holiday Epiphany is celebrated with the King’s Cake called the Galette des Rois.

 

What is Epiphany?

Epiphany is a Christian celebration with different meanings depending on whether the Church is Western or Eastern. For the Western church it commemorates the three Magi’s (often known as 3 wise men or 3 kings) visit to baby Jesus. For the Eastern churches, it is the day of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. It is also known as Three Kings’ Day.

 

It is the 12th day of (after) Christmas and is fixed in the Western church calendar as 6 January. The date on which it is celebrated though moves from year to year and is generally the Sunday between 2 and 9 January. This year it is celebrated today, 2 January 2022.

 

The tradition of the galette dates back to the 14th Century! While no longer a particularly religious holiday in France, the occasion is still celebrated with the Galette des Rois, a cake which can only be found and eaten throughout the month of January. Many eat it to ring in the new year with friends and family.

What is the galette des rois?

The Galette des Rois is traditionally a cake of puffed pastry (known as pâte feuilleté in France) filled with frangipane (not to be confused with the frangipani flower), which is a creamy almond paste-like mixture. Many patisseries in France, and now in Australia too, make galette des rois with non-traditional fillings as well such as chocolate with pears, or raspberry to name just a few.

Galette des Rois - Couronne des Rois

There are regional variations of the Galette des Rois to be found in France as well. A brioche style cake with candied fruit is often found in the South of France.

 

And the fèves?

The Galette des Rois also traditionally contains a “fève”, which is a porcelain charm hidden inside the cake. These have become highly collectable items for some and pâtissiers around France stand out not only with their flavour combinations and artistry but with the fèves their Galettes contain.

This person in Alsace has a collection of more than 167, 000 fèves!
© Stéphanie Mallauran / France 3

The tradition: be a King or Queen for a day!

There is a tradition to the cake, whereby the youngest person hides under the table and tells whoever is cutting the cake who should get which piece. The person who receives the fève in their slice then gets to wear the crown and is King or Queen and gets to choose their partner for the day. If you are the person who receives the piece with the fève, you have been the one who has “tiré les rois” (drawn the King) from the cake.

To find out where you can buy the Galette des Rois in Australia in 2022, click here

 

Will you be King or Queen for the day?

 

Subscribe

Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.