The Galette des Rois

The Galette des Rois is a French culinary tradition that takes place every year during the period of Epiphany¬†celebrated on January 6th or on the first Sunday following the new year’s day (since 1962, Vatican II council). This holiday marks the end of the Christmas period and celebrates the birth of Jesus. Throughout France, people gather with their families or friends to enjoy this delicious pastry in honor of the holiday, but what is its origin?

The origin of the galette des rois dates back to Ancient Rome, where the festival of Saturnalias was celebrated in honor of the god Saturn. During this period, slaves were freed and a “king of the festival” was chosen by lottery to rule over the festival for one day. This tradition has been maintained over the centuries and has evolved through different cultures.

In France, the tradition of the Galette des Rois was introduced in the Middle Ages by the Benedictine monks, who celebrated the holiday of Epiphany in honor of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. They prepared a special pastry called the “cake of kings” or “Galette des Rois” for the occasion. This pastry was traditionally made of puff pastry and filled with frangipane (click here for the recipe), an almond powder cream.

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Over the centuries, the Galette des Rois has evolved and many variations have emerged. Today, there are different types of galettes, such as the Galette des Rois with apples, nuts, spices, or candied fruit. You can also find the Brioche des Rois, a soft and sweet version of the traditional galette.

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The tradition of the Galette des Rois is also linked to that of the “king” or “queen” of the holiday. According to tradition, a bean, usually in the form of a small porcelain figurine, is hidden in the galette. Whoever finds the bean in their slice of galette is declared the “king” or “queen” of the holiday and wears the crown for the occasion.

King cake or galette des rois in French. Traditional epiphany pie with golden paper crown and tiny charms.

Another tradition related to the Galette des Rois is that of the “little king” or “little prince” who hides under the table while the galette is being cut. According to legend, the youngest in the family or the guests hides under the table and designates the person to whom each slice of galette should be served. This tradition symbolizes the role of the Magi in the birth of Jesus and reminds us that even the youngest can have an important role in life.

Conclusion:

The tradition of the galette des Rois is an important part of French culinary culture and is celebrated every year on January 6th or on the first Sunday following new year’s day, on the holiday of Epiphany. This pastry has become an opportunity for family or friends to gather and celebrate the end of the Christmas period. With its many variations, there is a galette for every taste and this tradition continues to thrive in French households for centuries.