Bonne Année my friends! It is I, Uncle Jacques, back once again with more must know knowledge about your future home or holiday destination - La Belle France! So after all the champagne and caviare consumed whilst ringing in the New Year, I got to thinking, wouldn't it be fun if we had a little look at another special celebration you will be expected to partake in once you move, or holiday in France during the festive season.
And speaking of traditions, have you sent your happy New Year card? Well you still have time, this a simple tradition which still continues in France and it's a nice way to say you're thinking of people you don't see often. If you want to enjoy all the celebrations France has to offer then you better get your skates on, as the first biggie is mere days away.
Fête de Rois or the galette des rois ( Epiphany) takes place on January 6th and it's a really fun little festival. Everyone gets together to eat a special King cake and hidden inside is a little figure or a bean. If it turns up in your slice and you don't break your teeth; then lucky you, because it means you get to be King or Queen for the day.
Now I know what you are thinking and yes it's true we did put our last royal family through the guillotine, but I'm sure your reign will be long and prosperous, just make sure you don't say 'let them eat cake,' unless of course it's galette.
In some towns there is a pea as well as a bean to find a King and a Queen and in other towns the King or Queen may choose their own counterpart. The King or Queen is of course crowned with a suitably posh paper hat and is pretty much treated like royalty for the duration. If you're having a great day you may make a royal decree to host your own party and therefore the celebrations can run on for days.
Traditionally the cake is cut equally so that everyone present will receive a share and even those who are not present for reasons beyond their control are not forgotten and special portions are cut and kept for sailors, soldiers and anyone else who is unable to attend.
As I mentioned earlier, the day is essentially Epiphany an important date in the Christian Calendar when it is said that three wise men happened upon a baby in a manger and gave him some spices, some incense, and some cash.
The festival is of course multinational, in England they call it twelfth night and it is the dreary day when the decorations are taken down and all the unwanted presents are presented to Cash Converters. In Spain they call it The day of the of Kings and they give each other presents before setting fire to a helpless farm animal. Well it is also nice, as the Spanish focus on the children's presents on the 6th January, and there are some great processions, regardless of La Crisis!
But of course it's the Germans who have the weirdest variant thanks to some ancient argument with the Pope over the use of butter in Christmas baking. Yes in Germany instead of being King or Queen, one assumes the role of Citizen and if you are unlucky enough to receive the bean you have to pay for the next big party, trust the Germans to take the fun out of anything.
Well I must leave you now my dear trainee Francophiles. Until soon, and I hope like me, you´re full of New Year´s resolutions, at least for the next day or two!
If one of your wishes for this year is to plan a trip to France, then you will regret it if you don't visit this growing website which has excellent information and travel guides for France. It also has advice sections written by British journalists living in France.
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