Where Does the Galette des Rois Tradition Come From?

Picture of a crown on top of a cake box

The Epiphany is not a public holiday in France, but it is the second highlight of the year after New Year’s Day. MOLKOÏ is breaking down its tradition just so you know why we eat the famous galette des rois on this very day.

Celebrated on January 6th for a while, that is to say 12 days after Christmas, the Epiphany is now celebrated on the first Sunday of January. If this Christian day commemorates the visit paid by the three kings Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar to Jesus, after a 12-day trip, it also takes on various pagan traditions.

Around the 14th century, we share a piece of bread. The tradition consists in hiding a golden or silver coin in it, cut as many pieces as there are guests, and send the youngest kid of the attendance under the table to randomly shout the name of whoever will be served the next piece of bread. The guest who gets the coin becomes the king / queen of the day and wear a special crown for the occasion. Throughout the years, the bread became the kings’ cake, the coin got replaced by small porcelain figurines (more cost effective and named fève after the bean once used in sign of fertility – being the first legume harvest in Spring).

But still, why some French regions eat the galette des rois, while others eat the king’s cake or a brioche topped with sugar and candied fruits? Well the different pastries came after a business war between bakeries and confectioneries in the 16th century. King François Ier granted the rights to sell the king’s cake to the confectioneries, so the bakeries got over their restriction making up their own recipes and names to remain competitive. The galette des rois is one of them, and its original recipe is made of puff pastry and frangipane (a mix of almond powder and custard).

This tradition is also celebrated in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

Do you know any other country in which it’s celebrated the same? ⬇

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