Wordwise 126 A2854

La galette des Rois

  • 2012.01.26

Today, I’d like to write about a little-known Christmas-related tradition: the king cake – la galette des Rois in French.

La galette des Rois is usually eaten during the first fortnight of January to celebrate the end of the journey undertaken by the biblical three kings to honor the Christ Child. Despite its religious origins, it is now part of the pagan folklore.

The cake comes in different shapes and styles, but the one I always eat back home is made with puff pastry and frangipane (a kind of sweet almond-based paste). Hidden inside is a little plastic, porcelain or metal trinket representing anything from a Baby Jesus to an Eiffel Tower.

Eating the cake – or drawing the kings as we call it – follows a well-established procedure. The cake is divided in as many shares as guests. The youngest guest goes under the table before the cutting begins so that he or she can’t see where the trinket is in case it is accidentally discovered during the cutting process. The person in charge of the service randomly chooses a slice and calls, “Who is this one for?” The person under the table indicates who the slice should be given to.

When all the shares have been distributed, it’s time to start eating. The guest who gets the trinket– if he or she doesn’t need to be taken to the ER for a broken tooth or choking – receives a golden paper crown and is then king or queen for the day.

So, if you’re sad that the year-end festivities are already over, why don’t you adopt this convivial tradition and bake a cake for your friends? Just don’t forget to put the trinket in and to warn your guests about it!