Today is Epiphany: Three Kings Day in France

At this point in January, most Americans consider the holidays to be over, but in many countries, the final holiday of the season occurs this month: Epiphany. In France, January 6th marks l'Epiphanie--also known as Three Kings' Day. Why January 6th? It's the twelfth day after Christmas, and historically Christians celebrated the Christmas season for twelve days. Historic Tidbits: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night refers to the festival tied to Epiphany. And the three kings is a reference to the magi or wise men who followed the star to find baby Jesus.

   Image by  Omar Barcéna

Image by Omar Barcéna

   fève by  Yuichi Sakuraba

The French celebrate by buying a galette des rois (kings' cake) from a local pâtisserie, or more rarely, making their own galette. In most of France, this cake is a pastry-covered tart filled with frangipane (sweet almond paste). The cake contains a small inedible figurine called a fève. (Historically it was a bean; today it is any sort of tiny porcelain object).

I love how children play a key role in the French celebration: After the dinner meal, the youngest child goes under the dining table and announces the order in which family members receive a slice of the galette. (This ensures that the child will not see who receives the fève, which is sometimes visible when the galette is sliced.) Whomever finds the fève in their portion is selected king (or queen) for the day and gets to wear a paper crown. He or she can also choose someone to serve as a king or queen alongside them.

   Image by  Dapheneo

Image by Dapheneo

Isn't this a sweet, simple holiday tradition? I love the additional holiday after Christmas and I cherish the memory of my four-year-old host sister announcing the serving order from beneath the table. Everyone in the family was complicit in the agreement that her slice would contain the fève. You can imagine her delight at finding it!

When my children are older I may bake us a king cake, but as a mama of two little ones this year, I will be purchasing a galette from Petite Provence or Saint Honoré Boulangerie here in Portland, Oregon. I feel so blessed to have these wonderful French bakeries and cafés nearby! (I'll share a photo of my family's king or queen on my Instagram page.)

Curious how to make a galette des rois (or simply love sweets)? Saint Honoré Boulangerie posted a mouthwatering photo tutorial of how they make the galette des rois on their Facebook page.

Have you ever celebrated Epiphany? Have you tasted frangipane? The parties will continue this week in my family as my little boy turns two years old. These are special days. Bonnes fêtes, mes amis!