We can hear this little voice inside saying “Wait, take your time, the Three Kings are coming. We will clean afterwards, promise!”
Epiphany and galette des rois: two different traditions
Epiphany was already celebrated in Orient back in 150s. Even before thinking celebrating Christmas.
It has a religious origin because that day we celebrate the “manifestation of Jesus Christ” in the world: his birthday, his baptism at later age, and his first miracle at Cana’s marriage.
The meaning will evolved over time, especially with the Christmas celebration at the end of the Fourth century. The Epiphany will become, in Occident, the Feast of Adoration of the Magi, the Three Kings: Gaspard, Melchior and Balthazar. In Orient, it is still related to the baptism of Jesus Christ.
It is different for the “galettes des rois”. It seems to be related to the Feast of Saturnales, a Roman Feasts celebrated at the winter solstice. The king was randomly elected with dice or small bones games. Slaves and Masters were on an equal footing.
Even if we don’t really know when the “galette des rois” has appeared, we can tell that people were already eating it at Moyen Age period. At the King’s table, the galette had various forms: round or not, stuffed with frangipane or apple, brioche and perfumed with orange blossom…etc.
Joardens, Le roi haricot
And what about the broad bean?
It was a true symbol of life and fertility because it’s one of the first edible seeds that grows in Spring. Once, they did put the real seed inside the galette.
The porcelain beans developed in Saxony at the end of the nineteenth century. At first they were little infants and then every Parisian pastry cooks will use as well.
It is only at the beginning of the Twentieth Century that somebody called Lion brings out the promotional broad bean. He was the owner of a Parisian shop and he had the idea to put the name and the address on the broad bean.
The Epiphany in the world
In Bulgaria, as in many Eastern countries like Russia and Ukraine, you will have to jump in the iced water to pick up a cross thrown by an orthodoxe priest.
in Greece, a dove is sent, then you plunge in holy water before eating some Vassilopita, a traditional cake perfumed with orange blossom where a coin has been hidden.
In Spain, kids get a lot of gifts from the family. The day before, there is a parade and Melchior, one of the Three King, distributes some candies and candied fruits.
And in Mexico, kids write a letter to the Three Kings. Then, with the members of their family , they eat some rosca de reyes, une fougasse brioche decorated with candied fruits where a broad bean has been hidden. The one who finds it first will organize a Candlemas Feast.
Anyway, it dons’t matter how you celebrate this tradition, it is a great opportunity to welcome the new year with delicacy and to share a sweet time with your family, friends and colleagues!
And too bad for the kids! 🙂