A New Year Epiphany

Once Christmas is over in France, the shelves of every boulangerie are suddenly full of a very distinctive flat pastry and marzipan cake, usually sold with a paper crown known as the Galette des Rois (cake of the Kings.) New Year celebrations here are almost bigger and more important than Christmas. The celebration starts at the end of December when people start wishing each other Bonne Année or Happy New Year and ends on the 6th January, or epiphany.

A Galette des Rois in the croustade shop in Saint Girons

As ever in France, any celebration is an excuse for fine food and wine and New Year is no exception with oysters, foie gras and champagne making up part of the meal of many families. Like Christmas, New Year celebrations tend to focus around a big family meal on New Year’s Eve known as le Réveillon, finishing with the Galette des Rois.

This cake is actually eaten right through January and comes with its own very specific traditions. Each is baked with a hidden charm inside known as la fêve which was originally a bean (hence the name) and is now a small china figure which children often collect. The cake is cut into pieces and the youngest child at the meal has to sit under the table and call out the name of each person to receive the next slice of cake. Whoever finds the charm hidden inside is given the paper crown to wear and becomes King or Queen for the day.

One of the many nice things about living abroad is that we can pick and choose our traditions from home or abroad, according to which appeal. So consumerism, piles of plastic toys and Christmas decorations in November are out while family time, mince pies, crackers, walks in the snow and the Galette des Rois are definitely in.

Wishing you a very Bonne Année

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