Epiphany

I just need to plunge right in, don’t I? It’s Thursday’s post on France and I promised to write about the Epiphany celebration where all of France (Europe? The Eastern Christian Churches?) eats the galette des rois. With alcoholic bubbling cider.

But I’m having trouble plunging right in because I’m distracted. I’m forlorn because my husband is in Minnesota (he just discovered the walkways that connect the buildings out of the blinding snow there and he’s really pumped about it). I’m also indecisive because I didn’t have time to walk my dog this morning and he keeps looking at me pointedly, but it’s really wet out. And I’m overwhelmed because my floors are covered in muddy bootprints and paw prints and I don’t know if it’s worth it to mop just yet or will they get muddy again? So you see why I’m distracted?

But a writer must write, even if it’s only because she promised to have a Thursday post on France or because she promised to let you know about all the book reviews and kind words that are being sprinkled over the blogosphere. In fact, let me tell you about one such review.

I don’t know how I found Andrea from About 100%, but one day she commented on my post. And when I went to check out her blog, I was in stitches at the unassuming way in which she writes. It takes real skill to keep your face deadpan when you’re telling a story, adding humour to the scenario by your completely impassive expression. It takes even more skill to do that in writing when you can’t even see a person’s face, and yet you’re swept up in the humour of (what you know is ) their blank stare and blinking eyelashes that accompany the words.

Andrea’s humour comes out in her crafting expeditions, her adventures in the kitchen, and the way she rocks at decorating. Seriously, even compiling this list (and it was really hard to select just three) had me giggling from all the memories of reading these posts for the first time.

And Andrea has been kind enough to review my book for me. She is giving away a copy of A Lady in France, and her review (complete with her own French story) is found here. I just know you will love Andrea.

Back to the Epiphany. The Christian take on things is that the wise men came to visit the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth, which falls on January 6th. Catholic tradition states that this was God’s manifestation to the gentiles, and it celebrates the first feast that is linked with Christianity.

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, a porcelain figure, called a fève, is hidden in the galette des rois. To avoid the temptation of searching for it as the pieces are cut, tradition has it that the youngest member of the family (or guests) crawls under the table, and as each slice is cut, he calls out the name of somebody present and the slice goes to that person. He’s not able to see who gets what (or how big each slice is) and that renders the distribution more equal. The person who gets the fève is king for the day and they get to wear a paper crown.

galette16Although, if you go back to the 13th century when the tradition started in France, the person who got the fève was supposed to declare someone else king or queen of the day and kiss them. Back then, they also cut the number of portions per guests present, plus one extra part (called The Virgin Mary’s part, or The Good God’s part). This would be given to the first poor person who had the fortune to pass by.

In keeping with modern times, the galette des rois that is cut on the Champs ELysées (where the president’s palace is) contains no fève since France is, most decidedly, not a monarchy. And we don’t need to elect a chief for the day, since we already have a chief. Unless, of course, he is unavailable because of his new mistress . . . But I digress.

If you go back a couple of centuries before that, this tradition was found in the Romans who celebrated 7 days of Saturnalia (winter solstice) by hiding a coin – gold or silver, depending on their wealth – in the bread to determine who would be elected as their chief for the day. Those who had no silver or gold coins would hide a white bean in the cake, and a bean, in French, is called . . . a fève! This Roman celebration was sort of an “anything goes” type of feast that also included masters switching roles with one of their servant’s for the day, and the possibility of reversing a death sentence should the condemned get the lucky draw.

People actually collect the fèves, and this hobby is called fabophilie. I got most of my information on this website, where you can also see a picture of what a real galette des rois should look like. In other words – much prettier than mine.

Head over to Tinne’s blog, who is located in Belgium, if you want to learn more about the related tradition of Lost Monday.

galette21So I did it. I wrote an entire post. My floors aren’t clean yet. My long-suffering dog has resigned himself. I may or may not have taken a piece of the galette des rois out of the freezer to microwave and eat as I was typing this just for some inspiration. But in all my failures I took a step forward and accomplished something, and that, my friends, is nothing short of success.

What an epiphany!

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I am the daughter of a symphony musician who was raised in upstate New York, and I simply breathe all things classical, be it music or 19th century literature (English and Russian). I married Sir Renaissance in New York City, and before I knew it, he had swept me up and brought me back home to his own country. So here we are. Three children, a rather ordinary life in a rather exceptional place. I am now ‘A Lady in France.’

Posted in Culture, France
20 comments on “Epiphany
  1. Leanen says:

    You had me at “galette” . . . I have terrible sweet tooth today, and that looks just delish. Love learning the story behind hinding of the coins. Although my luck, I’d just gobble it down so fast I wouldn’t even have known there was a coin or goodie in there! ;) Your friend Andrea sounds lovely. Can’t wait to meet her!
    Leanen recently posted…The Choices We MakeMy Profile

  2. Aren’t the skyways in Minnesota awesome! I call them ‘people hamster wheels!’ Wish you were here with him. xoxo
    tracy@sellabitmum recently posted…45 Signs That You Have PMSMy Profile

  3. Jennifer says:

    I ALWAYS count it as a success when I accomplish something, no matter how small.
    Jennifer recently posted…PotentialMy Profile

  4. Writing while distracted is very, very hard.
    I love the history of the galette des rois.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…Wookie on a MotorbikeMy Profile

    • ladyjennie says:

      Yes. And I’m supposed to be writing this very minute. I set aside time for that purpose. But I really wanted to connect with everyone through the comments, so once again – distraction! But . . . good distraction. :-)

  5. Andrea says:

    I love that you explained the epiphany in this post because I always forget when it happens. I do know that it’s the reason why I keep my Christmas tree up until the middle of January.

    And the galette – yum yum yum. I would also have to eat a piece or three for inspiration.

    And lastly: Thank you so much for writing such lovely words about me, Jennie! You are a dear friend and I am so happy that we found each other. Oh, shoot, now I’m tearing up a little. Darn it. A girl can’t be funny when she’s being sappy.
    Andrea recently posted…Perfect Parents Bum Me OutMy Profile

  6. Nina says:

    So I know this isn’t the main point BUT, I can’t believe your husband is here and you’re not. BUMMER FOR ME!
    Nina recently posted…Why We Use a Timer for EverythingMy Profile

    • ladyjennie says:

      I know! In addition to you, Galit, Tracy, Vikki (people I would want to visit in MN), there are also my aunts and uncle, and 2 friends from NY!

  7. Alison says:

    Eh, you wrote. It is coherent, and I love the story.
    That’s accomplishment. xo
    Alison recently posted…I’m A Cat and A Queen Bee: #AskAwayFridayMy Profile

  8. Thank you so very much for linking me!
    We also do the whole bean thing. We put two beans in the galette which always ‘mysteriously’ end up in the pieces of my two daughters, so they are both Queen of the bean
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently posted…Did you know today is Lost Monday?My Profile

  9. Galit Breen says:

    I love the way you tied this all together and I say we celebrate all that you did do! Floors-shmoors, right? :)
    Galit Breen recently posted…Listening EarsMy Profile

  10. Hillary says:

    Can’t believe I missed this post, because I love Three King’s Day! Thank you for all that information, Jennie, especially the Roman bits. We Christians have always been good at assimilating others’ traditions and putting a new meaning into them.

    Next year come to my Epiphany party if you can – haha! I, however, forgot to hide a trinket inside my cake.
    Hillary recently posted…Phoenix, that Land of Two SeasonsMy Profile

I'm Lady Jennie - Welcome to A Lady in France!

I think I was born in the wrong era. I am meant to live in the 19th century. In England. Born into an aristocratic family that is independently wealthy and doesn't need to marry off its daughters to save them from becoming spinster governesses. ( To continue reading, please click here. )

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