Monday, January 6, 2014

Twelfth Night, à la française

January 5th marked the Christian holiday of Twelfth Night, which some French families celebrate by crawling under a table and calling out names, part of the custom of the galettes des rois, the cake of kings, wherein wherein one bakes a cake, having inserted into the batter a miniature ceramic figure of the baby Jesus. Whomever gets the slice with the Jesus, provided he doesn’t choke to death, is king for a day, and gets to wear a paper crown (a conventional crown, thank goodness, not a crown of thorns).

Okay, so far, not so bad. But wait: Because it would be easy for the server to divine when the baby Jesus had been delivered and give the slice to a chosen one, another family member (or office worker — the ceremony is sometimes held in the workplace as well!) crawls under the table on which the cake is being sliced and calls out the name of the person to receive the next slice. I last performed this ceremony in my 10th grade French class, where the teacher adapted the ceremony for our mostly Jewish class by inserting a king and a queen into the cake. Guess who drew the king and had to dance in front of everyone with the queen?

It was enough to make me quit French for 40 years. (But I'm back!)


  1. The picture of your galette is unconventional where did you buy it?

    1. Public domain, Frederic :) Il est le votre? Do I owe you a credit?


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