Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Festival of the Kings

Just when you think it's safe to go back to eating healthily.... ... the French celebrate Ephipany! And frankly, I love it.
Epiphany is the festival which celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings to visit the baby Jesus. The French bake three different types of cake, two basically 'crown-shaped', like the one we ate yesterday, and one like a pie. We aim to try out all three over the next few evenings!
Each kings' cake (gateau des rois) is sold with a cardboard crown on the top and a secret hidden inside - it's like the English sixpence in the Christmas Pudding. The secret is a little china figurine called a fève, which means 'bean'. Once upon a time it must have been a real bean, but now it may represent a popular film character (Asterix or Harry Potter), a famous painting or sporting event, or a character from the traditional French nativity. Very appropriately, our first fève of the season seems to be a king! Son 1 spotted him at the bottom of his second slice. This means that Son 1 was officially king for the night, although he didn't bother with the crown.
I like the Three Kings. This is partially because they are quite mysterious. I'll illustrate what I mean with photos from my mantelpiece (to be cleared tonight, honest).First mystery: How many of them were there?
Think it's obvious? But no numbers are given in the Bible - it's just that they brought three presents, so we traditionally think of there having been three givers. So there could have been loads more, or only two, perhaps.Second mystery: Who where these men?
Kings? - the Bible doesn't say so.
Wise Men? - maybe that's closer. We knw they studied the stars. So why do we call them kings? Tradition, I suppose. Quite mysterious, though.
Third mystery: Where did they come from?
The East. Oh, I would love more information than that....
Fourth mystery: Where did they visit Jesus?
Easy, at the stable with the shepherds! Surely? But no... We really do mess the story around to make our nativity plays fit! Check this out to see how much later they must have really arrived.
And as well as the mystery, I like what they represent, because they represent me. They were people from other faiths and other countries who were included at the birth of Jesus. Even though Jesus lived and worshipped all his life as a Jew, from the very beginning other people were invited to join in too. I like that very much.
Now, if you are looking for a chance to get hold of an interesting magazine, please do click here to find out more about my No Frills Magazine Swap!


Cape Cod Rambling Rose said...

What a fabulous post! Your sweets look so yummy and I love the info about the 3 kings!

And I do like the idea of sweet holiday treats with surprises inside! We don't do anything like that here sadly. The closest we ever came was when I was a child and people would put coins inside of the apples we bobbed for on Halloween. Now even that is a no-no! lol

Michela said...

My french teacher, even if she came from the Pyrenèes(Perpignan I think) never told me about this great festival! Great post as usual, your telling always makes the difference!

A Bun Can Dance said...

Dear Floss
Oh I love the Kings too! I love the mystery surrounding them, just like you say and I adore seeing them represented in Art.
Enjoy your other 2 cakes!
D x

Angela said...

Great Post Floss - and good to be reminded that some of the first visitors to see Jesus were not Jews, but Gentiles [like me]
It is good to separate Epiphany and the Magi part of the story from the Christmas night/shepherds part of the story.
And I love the cakes!!!

Lululiz said...

Oh, thats such a delicious way to celebrate! Perhaps next Christmas Season we will be living in France and will be able to enjoy all these great celebrations. I love the idea of the little figure in the cake, like the coin in the christmas pudding over here ( which of course we are not allowed to do anymore because of health risks, good grief ).

marigold jam said...

Oh how I remember thos gallettes des rois! I was stuffed by the end of the first week in January!! I maintain that the fevres (originally a dried bean as you said) are manufactured in cahoots with the dental system since if you bite on one of those ceramic fevres you will need expensive dental work and no mistake! By the way there was an article in this weekend Telegraph about these galettes since apparently some French restauranteur is having them made at great cost!

I love your point that the kings were of other faiths - why oh why can't we all live peaceably together each believing whatever is right for him or her and letting everyone else get on with their ideas?!


bad penny said...

oh Floss I loved this ... pop by & scroll back past my snowy pictures ( YES ! snow at last ! ) to see how the Spanich celebrate El Noche de los Reyes ... xx

Ange said...

Floss you did make me laugh! It's exactly that - I was just about to start being reasonable with my eating and then my husband brought home two gâteaux des Rois (as he does every night for at least a week). I forgot all about him doing that last year too... He combs Toulouse for the best ones he can find and then brings them home. I manage to decline the offer after about 3 days but it's too hard in the beginning. Feels like we're in crown heaven!

Joan@anythinggoeshere said...

I have just put up the information about the Vintage Valentine Card Party. Come by and see if you would like to participate. And vote for your favorite button.

Josie-Mary said...

Looks yummy :) Is it safe to have a figure in your cake? I'm sure H&S bosses would have something to say about that!!!
I don't have any magazines....only knitting which I keep for the patterns. I thought I could treat myself because I would be getting 2 for 1! :)

beck said...

Wow, that's my kind of celebration! Love that cake with the crown on it. Happy New Year to you to Floss, has it been a good one so far? I'm keen to check out your magazine swap, see you soon xo

The Curious Cat said...

Well, you learn something every day - I like this mystery...we don't need to have all the answers do we? Adds to the magic in someways... Thanks for sharing the French traditions with us! I love learning about this sort of stuff too! xxx

TheMadHouse said...

I love reading about your life in france. The three kings are so cool!!!