Epiphany : (word coming from the Greek epiphany meaning "appearance"). Epiphany is a Christian feast which celebrates the Messiah come and incarnate in the world and which receives the visit and the homage of the Magi. It takes place on January 6. Since 1971, in countries where Epiphany is not a public holiday, it can be celebrated on the second Sunday after Holidays, i.e. the first Sunday following January 1st. In France, this has been the case since 1802, a rule which was established by a decree of Cardinal Caprara, legate of Pope Pius VII.
The feast is also called “Theophany”, which also means “manifestation of God”.
Various customs are observed on this occasion. In France, since the Middle Ages, a " galette des rois », Cake containing a bean, is shared that day; whoever finds the bean in his portion of the pancake is nicknamed "king".
Etymology: The feminine noun Epiphany (pronounced [epifani) is a borrow, through the intermediary of the Christian Latin Epiphania, from the Greek Ἐπιφάνεια (Epipháneia) which means “manifestation” or “appearance” of the verb φαίνω (phaínō), “to manifest, appear, be obvious ”. It is the neuter substantive of the adjective epiphanios, from epiphanês “illustrious, brilliant”, from epi- “on” and phainein “to shine”.
The use of the term predates Christianity. The "Epiphanes" are, in Greek culture, the twelve divinities of Olympus appeared to men, with in the first place, Zeus, the god of celestial justice.
Epiphany in popular tradition:
Pulling the kings: Tradition has it that Epiphany is the occasion to “pull the kings”: a figurine is hidden in a pastry shop and the person who obtains this bean becomes the king of the day.
This practice would find its origin in the Saturnalia of ancient Rome. During these pagan festivals celebrated at the beginning of January, the roles were reversed between the masters and the slaves who became the "kings for a day".
It was not until around 1875 that porcelain figurines replaced beans. The Romans already practice the use of a bean hidden in a cake to designate the king. Also existed among the Romans, the tradition according to which the youngest child of the family slips under the table and designates the part due to each guest.
In France: Since the XNUMXth century, we have eaten galette des rois on the occasion of this feast. Tradition has it that the cake is divided into as many parts as there are guests, plus one. The latter, called "part of the good Lord", "part of the Virgin" or "part of the Poor", is intended for the first poor person to come to the house.
Current use: The traditional bean is accompanied or replaced by a small subject hidden inside the dough of the Galette des Rois. The person having the bean in his share is symbolically crowned king or queen (more and more, among friends and / or especially in the professional context: the king must offer the next cake; and when there is a subject , whoever has it, must offer the drink (sparkling wine, muscat, or champagne depending on the stock market…).
When there are children, one of them - usually the youngest - should sit under the table and, while the person doing the service chooses a piece, the child designates the recipient of this. portion.
Other variants: Some families arrange for the bean or the figurine to go to one of the youngest children. He is crowned king or queen and he then chooses his king or queen (who is often his mother or father).
Frequently, "Kings" are drawn several times during the period.
In the South (East and West) of France, traditionally we do not prepare a pancake (in the literal sense) but a brioche in the shape of a crown, (called "còca" in Occitan) and which is covered with pearl sugar. In addition to the sucre, it can be filled and / or covered with candied fruits. In some towns in Languedoc (mainly Montpellier), these buns are called "kingdoms".
In the South-East, a santon (generally santon-puce) tends to replace the bean.
This "crown of the Kings" is still very present in the South-West, even if it is made in competition by the pancake, sometimes less expensive (the candied fruits would be expensive) but above all easier to manufacture and keep, (even handling!), and it would tend to decrease in the South-East.
In Paris, artisan bakers and pastry chefs offer the Élysée galette every year. This cake does not contain a bean so that the President of the Republic cannot be crowned. This tradition dates back to 1975, when Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was offered a giant cake one meter in diameter.
In Moselle-Est, boys disguised as three wise men went from house to house singing, while turning a star mounted on a stick: "Es kummen drey Weissen vom Morgenland" (Three wise men came from the East). They then obtained treats or coins.
Follow-up of this tradition: In 2014, a survey carried out in France revealed that 97% of French people still celebrate Epiphany; another OpinionWay poll gives only 85% 20. They eat for:
- 70% a pancake frangipane ;
- 11% one Kings cake, mainly in the South;
- 8% a galette des Rois à la apple.
- 9% consume more than five. 68% cheat to give the bean to the youngest.
Galette des Rois and secularism: While in 2014, the presence of nurseries in public places had generated a major controversy in France, the galette rarely causes identity tensions. However, for example during the preparation of the ceremonies of the pancakes in 2013 in Brest, the town hall decided to remove all the crowns. The services explain that "This year, on the crown was inscribed the word" Epiphany ". In our eyes, it was to bring the religious to school, which is prohibited by law ”.
Similar customs in other countries:
Epiphany in the United Kingdom, Isaac Cruikshank, 1794.
In Spain, Portugal (Bolo Rei) and Latin American countries: the Día de los Reyes Magos is often a public holiday there and children receive their gifts there rather than at Holidays.
In Belgium and the Netherlands: we also eat a galette à la almond paste. The youngest hides under the table to designate the shares and the king of the day chooses his queen. During the day the children roam the streets singing the song of the star and go door to door to receive gifts. tangerines and candy. This custom tends to disappear in Belgium. In the Flemish countryside this is still done. It should be noted in passing that in Wallonia, this is when preparations for the Carnival begin.
In the South of the United States the tradition of pulling the Kings exists under the name of king cake. These are eaten throughout the period from Epiphany to the carnival of Mardi Gras, January 6th.
In Greece and Cyprus, there is no “galette des rois” per se. The Vassilopita is today a cake in honor of Saint Basil of Caesarea. This cake is prepared on New Year's Eve and it is not until January 1, the anniversary of the saint's death that it is cut. A gold coin is traditionally placed there, thus mimicking a provision adopted by the saint to distribute evenly the ransom not used to stop the siege of Caesarea. However, the origin of the Byzantine tradition most certainly dates back to the Kronia of ancient Greece and the Saturnalia of Rome, as anthropologist Margarett Hasluck has demonstrated.