Paris Observed {galette des rois}

My formative years were spent in Kansas City, otherwise known as “Hallmark country” – the headquarters for the mega giant known for their greeting cards. I’ve always been convinced they’ve played a large role in the commercialization (for good or bad) of the holidays in the US. This is in part evidenced by the way that holiday good start showing up in stores earlier and earlier each year in a way that sometimes it feels like Christmas is year round.
The whole American phenomenon of sending holiday cards (especially the mass produced holiday letter greeting) is something foreign to the French. When my friend Zoe married a Frenchman in Austin, TX over the holidays last year, all of their French friends were in complete awe of the strings of cards hanging in her parents’ home as part of the holiday decorations. Simple holiday cards were something that truly amazed them and was foreign to them.
WhileHallmark holidaysmay not exist in France, I’ve come to the conclusion that their galette des rois, or king’s cake is their replacement for the ever present holiday – but just in the form of food. While the almond paste filled cakes (Mmmm!) are to celebrate Epiphany (Jan 6), it is now the third week in January and the galette des rois are still going strong at boulangeries and Monoprixs everywhere. Just likeAmericanking’s cakes (that was another amusing moment when I got to witness Zoe showing two French friends what a Louisana-style kings cake looks like), the galette des rois contains une fève, or prize inside. At Zoe’s dinner this year I was lucky enough to get the piece with the fève (a really creepy looking M&M knock off in my case) and have the honor wearing the crown and being king for the rest of the day (which wasn’t very long, as most dinners in France end around 11pm!). Yes, it seems like the boulangeries are the ones who run the holidays in France…

If you want to learn more about the galette des rois in France, Clothilde has a great post on the subject.

7 comments

  • I love the idea of making a galette des rois… I think it’s such a fun tradition. And lucky you to find the feve! The only issue is that by the time January 6th rolls around I’m totally exhausted from Christmas and New Year’s–so I rather think I appreciate the ‘Hallmark extension.’ And so funny to hear that the French don’t send holiday cards.

  • Much better than cards – yum! We always forget to send Christmas cards….
    I have a Greek aunt who does something similar to the galette des rois, but it’s a New Year’s cake and whomever finds the coin gets good luck for the whole new year. Still delicious!

    windeater.blogspot.com

  • I actually work for Hallmark in KC so I understand exactly what you’re saying about the marketing & the holidays. (On a side note, if you work here your holidays are really screwed up – we just finished mother’s day & are working father’s day now. Christams is in the summer). Having said that, since I started working here I’m actually interested in holidays, especially the ones that are celebrated regionally or in other countries. How everyone celebrates is such a big part of culture. I always try to check this out when I’m traveling. I also like the idea of finding a reason to celebrate & get together with friends any day and every. Good “creepy m&m” description!

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