When I lived in France a couple of years ago, I wasn’t very involved with absorbing the country’s culture. I spent most of my time chatting to fellow Scandinavians, or even Colombians, but I never had a French copain. Big mistake, now I hardly remember French at all, except the usual ouai, je parle francais un peu.
One French tradition I managed to experience however, was Twelfth Night, or la Fête de Roi. To celebrate the coming of the three wise men to baby Jesus, this is a festive day with a strong emphasis on food. The obvious dessert to sample is la galette des rois, which is a dream of puff pastry and frangipane. Depending on where you’re from in France, the recipes vary. In the south for instance, they’re more keen on brioche with dried fruits.
Inside the cake, you hide a little token, a féve, which in our case was a teeny tiny Petit Prince figurine. The one who gets the féve in his or her cake slice, is crowned king for the day. He or she has then the honour of choosing his queen. You also have to wear a stylish paper crown to really emphasise who’s in charge.
It was great fun to celebrate this holiday, and the year after, back home where no such traditions can be found, we decided to celebrate Epiphany ourselves. Incorporating some Scandinavian elements, we made our own galette des rois and invented a Fête de Roi dance.
The anti-climax when someone’s been crowned king is of course inevitable, but to spice it up a bit you can make your own house rules. What kind of power the king will enjoy or who buys/organises next year’s fête can be some fun alternatives.
To my great luck I was able to sample a piece of that delicious galette this year too. Delivered from Soultz-les-Bains in a bright pink box, it tasted just as sweet as I remembered it. And when I found the little porcelain figure and was crowned le Roi, I was pretty chuffed too.