Ophélie Artaud 6:29 p.m., January 05, 2023

January 6 marks the launch of the galette des rois, to the delight of young and old alike who, in addition to feasting, have fun by "pulling the kings".

But where does this tradition come from?

Why is there a bean in the cake and why do we put a crown, except at the Élysée?

Europe 1 tells you the story of the famous frangipane cake.

Whether frangipane or candied fruit, it delights gourmets at the start of the year.

On January 6, on the occasion of Epiphany, we share the galette des rois.

But do you know where this tradition comes from?

Initially, the Epiphany is a Christian feast, which takes place 12 days after the birth of Jesus and which celebrates the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem, to meet Christ.

According to the Gospel according to Matthew, three visitors - popularized in the 8th century under the names of Melchior, Gaspard and Balthazar - come to bring to the "king of the Jews" gold, myrrh and frankincense.

If Epiphany is indeed on January 6, since 1802, the Catholic Church has decided that the event will be celebrated on the first Sunday after January 1.

This year, we celebrate Epiphany on Sunday, January 8.

A custom that spans the ages

But eating the galette des rois on the occasion of Epiphany has nothing religious about it.

On the contrary, "draw the kings" was first a pagan practice whose origins can be found during Roman antiquity.

Every year, during the period of the winter solstice, the Romans organized the Saturnalia, great popular festivals to celebrate the god Saturn.

During this period, the slaves regained their freedom and the masters no longer had authority over them.

The roles could even be reversed and one drew lots who would become king during this period.

During the meal, the Romans hid a bean - a symbol of fertility - in a cake and the slave who obtained it became king for a day.

He could then do and get whatever he wanted.

It was also the youngest participant who stood under the table and designated who got each part of the cake.

No crown or bean at the Élysée

In the Middle Ages, the tradition continued and new customs appeared, such as that of the "king drinks".

During these parties, the alcohol flows freely and whoever draws the bean must pay a round to all the participants.

And to avoid any cheating, the bean, which can be swallowed, is replaced by a porcelain bean.


 The galette des rois by Yves Camdeborde

Then, if the tradition of "drawing kings" continues under the French monarchy, it disappears during the French Revolution, just like the crown.

We still continue to share a pancake, as a sign of equality.

This “republican” custom without bean or crown continues today at the Élysée.

Each region has its recipe

The composition of the cake also varies according to the country, even the region.

In France, the traditional galette is the one with frangipane, which is said to have been invented by Count Cesare Frangipani.

He would have offered the recipe as a gift to Catherine de Medici at the time of her marriage to Henri II.

But in Provence, for example, we eat rather a crown of kings: a round brioche with a hole in the center with orange blossom, decorated with candied fruit and covered with sugar.

In addition to the bean is a small porcelain figurine.

The galette also varies in many other regions of France, such as in Bordeaux, where it is a round brioche crown with candied citron, or in Dunkirk where the brioche dough is filled with rum butter cream or kirsch.

In the rest of the world, Epiphany is also celebrated, but not always with a galette.

In many countries such as Spain, Argentina or Italy, gifts are given to children on January 6 instead of Christmas Day.

In Eastern Europe, we take an ice-water bath and in Denmark, we enjoy a 


, an almond-based cake in the shape of a crown, of course.