Bonjour, Mes Amis!
I hope you all enjoyed a very merry Holiday season with your friends and families, and had fun welcoming in the New Year! I have always loved that, regardless of what troubles or triumphs anyone might be going through, our loved ones all manage to unite to celebrate the years we’ve been able to spend together. So, to inspire us all to continue to celebrate 2014, I thought I’d share a popular French New Year’s tradition that carries on through the whole month of January!
As early as the Fall of the Roman Empire, and all the way to the present, the French have kept the tradition of “Tirer les Rois” (meaning, “To Find the King”) alive to mark the beginning of each new year. The tradition of becoming roi pour un jour is based on the idea of reversing roles with ones servants for a day throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance; the Aristocratic Lord would host a party for his servants, and honor one of them with the privilege of being treated as royalty for a day. This tradition has also evolved to symbolize the celebration of the New Year and the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Wise men (Magi).
For centuries, the French have gathered with their friends and family in early January pour tirer les rois, to find the king, in the specially-made cake used for this celebration. A small plastic or porcelain lucky charm, la fève (in the shape of a little king, a cow, or whatever little trinket the family has saved for the occaision), is baked into the cake which is then cut so that each person attending gets one slice. The youngest person in the room then gets to dictate the order in which everyone else gets to select and eat the next slice (the youngest person was traditionally believed to be the most innocent (which many of you with kids might be suspicious of now!), and therefore most fair in the distribution of the slices and luck. Whoever finds la fève in their slice of galette wins the honor of being the King for the day, and wearing a royal paper crown to show it! A few days later or the following weekend, the King hosts another party with the same group of friends and family, and they play all over again throughout the month of January.
What a wonderful way to spend time with loved ones beyond a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, and what better way to celebrate than over some delicious French cakes and pastries!
Bonne Année, mes amis, and we will see you soon!