How the French Celebrate Three Kings Day

Wren Hess ’23

Three Kings’ Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, is a Christian holiday that begins on January 6th. Dedicated to the Three Wise Men who followed the Star of Bethlehem, the various traditions partaken in on this day are to commemorate the men first seeing baby Jesus and bringing him gifts. It is a holiday many nations across the world celebrate and cherish, including France.

 A common French tradition on Three Kings’ Day is a contest between individuals, such as chefs, to find either a plastic figurine or broad bean within the la galette, French for “cake.” In keeping with tradition, the youngest member present goes under the table and decides who receives which slice. This practice is undertaken to prevent cheating.

The person who finds the bean in their slice, crowned as the King/Queen of pastries, is rewarded with privileges such as getting the day off work, or other obligations. In addition, some traditions see it so that the individual who finds the charm is required to make crepes for future holidays, such as Mardi Gras. Depending on your crepe-making skills, this could either be a blessing or a curse.

The cake, whose full name is la galette des Rois (the Kings’ Cake), is specific to Three Kings’ Day. Most commonly, the cake is baked into the shape of a circle, symbolizing the sun. It is made with almond flour, sugar, eggs, salt and then topped off with an egg base finish. The signature bean is placed within the cake for someone to find as the final step.  It is recommended that the cake is served on a basalt plate, a cooking tray imitating real slate, to enhance the flavor. 

As the holiday is celebrated internationally, there are variations of the ingredients and baking methods, even between different regions of France. This is just one of the numerous different ways to complete la galette des Rois. 

In conclusion, Three Kings’ Day is a holiday that still remains popular within France, as many still participate in these traditions annually. It is a time for celebration, laughter, happiness, and love for everyone across the globe.

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