I’m still catching up with my blogging. In the beginning of January we went to the fête des galletes. It’s a yearly thing organised by Dire-Lire, the people who run my French course. In France you eat galette des rois to celebrate the holiday of Epiphany.
In Austria Epiphany means kids dress up as the three Magi and go from door carolling and collecting money. It’s a yearly donation drive by the catholic church. I just did a little googling because I was vague on the facts. Apparently it’s organised by the catholic Jungschar (similar to the scouts, I guess, but closely affiliated with the church).
When we talked about epiphany in class, I looked up the word Sternsinger in the dictionary and there was an entire sentence to translate the concept. That’s how I found out that the tradition of dressing up kids as magi and sending them around town to sing, collect money and bless people’s houses by writing something in chalk is a tradition of the areas where German is spoken, not something practised by catholics everywhere. That was also the reason why I could score with detail knowledge in class. Nobody else knew that the three magi are called Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar.
In France Epiphany is celebreated on January 6 or the first Sunday of January and you celebrate it by eating galette des rois. It’s puff pastry with frangipan, a delicious filling made from almonds, sugar, butter and eggs. There is a fève, a broad bean, hidden somewhere in the cake. Nowadays it’s rarely an actual bean but a little plastic figure. The person who gets the piece with the bean is roi/reine of the day and gets to wear the paper crown. Here’s a recipe by my favourite French food blogger (she writes in English).
Boulangeries sell galettes des rois not just on January 6, but starting in late December all through the month of January. The galettes come in all sizes and with different fillings as well. There are even cakes where the fèves are figures of one of the last couple of animated Disney films.
Epiphany is not a public holiday in France, just a cake eating day. The Christmas school holidays only last until January 2nd. School kids still get 2 weeks off though, it just starts earlier here.
The fête des galettes was organised for a Saturday night in January. All people from all the French classes are invited and are asked to bring their family.
We were asked to bring a savoury speciality from our country. It couldn’t be a warm dish, because there are no cooking facilities available. We ended up deciding on Styrian salad with runner beans (according to Leo) and pumpkin seed oil which is Steirischer Käferbohnensalat mit Kernöl.
They even had a little programme prepared. All the teachers who were there introduced themselves. There was a quiz on Parisian sights and a little film about France. It was supposed to introduce the country and help us decide where to go on a weekend trip. Then they showed a music video that probably everyone in France knows. They called it karaoke and expected us to sing along. Some teachers bravely sang along but we foreigners just stared at the screen wondering what that was all about. I didn’t recognise the song, didn’t know the words and don’t sing in public.
Despite not having been home for the holidays this year, I got the full epiphany experience: I was sitting there, feeling terribly awkward while unexpectedly being sung at by strangers. It’s really almost like the Austrian epiphany tradition, only in France at least we had pastry afterwards.