Sunday, 6 January 2008

Epiphany Cakes for Kings and Queens

Roman Saturnalia, pagan festivals and Christian festivities have all interlinked to begin the celebration of Epiphany on January 6th with the Day of the Three Kings, Wise Men or Magi. It is the Twelfth Night of Christmas and in the Middle Ages a King (which one?) decided to celebrate with a King's Cake! In Paris it was made with Puff Pastry and almond paste called frangipane or marzipan. This version is also supposed to come from Pithiviers in Loiret, France hence it's name. In Provence it was made of Brioche and dried fruits. In the time of Louis XIV, the Church banned the festival because people were over-indulging!! The French make a feast of this time of year. If you win the bean (mind the teeth!!) which today is normally a ceramic model or plastic figurine hidden inside then you can wear the crown of a King or Queen and it is your turn to provide the next gateau at the next event! Even a pauper can be King for a day! What a marvellous idea!! It is never-ending! Consequently, the gateau festival starts and does not finish until Shrove Tuesday when the crêpe season commences!! The French do not give up pancakes for Lent! We will have to learn the art of saying "No thankyou" or greed just sets in!! We aim to play the following game at the first anniversary of our village children's group! I shall make a gateau in the shape of a crown. We will choose the youngest child to hide under the table and say in random order the names of the seated children so that they can each receive their portion in turn. Whoever has the bean (feve) will wear the crown to be the King or the Queen and their family will have to supply the gateau for the following week! We will also play a circle game where the person with the "bean" drops it behind a seated child. The two children race around the circle to return to the empty space. The one who does not gain the place re-starts the game. I wonder what song we could sing?

Today we sang "We Three Kings" whilst eating our dessert of Pithiviers gateau, having walked 12kms in the rain with our walking group. We stopped at the summer chalet of the group leader for vin chaud and hazelnut broyèe - something like shortcake. Excellent company!

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