By Isobel Edmondson, Travel Digital Editor
The Croft Magazine // Maybe you just spent another new year's eve giving in to Jools Holland's 'Hootenanny', or perhaps you found yourself playing the same drinking games with your friends as when you were a teen. If you're not yet partied-out and looking to do something a bit different to kick off the year, Isobel transports you to France to provide some inspiration.
Celebrated on the 6th January, the French "Soirée galette des rois" (King Cake Soirée) tradition dates to the 14th century, where friends and families would gather and celebrate to mark the Winter Solstice, before being claimed by the Church to mark the story of the Epiphany and the Three Kings at the birth of Jesus. A galette des rois is served to the President of the Republic every year and is supposed to feed a whopping 150 people. Ah yes, a ginormous pastry to see in the new year – just when I thought France couldn’t get any Frencher.
It was my flatmate in Toulouse last year who introduced me this tradition, as she suggested we host one of these soirées galette des rois. I was confused at first as she explained the tradition, picturing a Breton galette, which is essentially a savoury crepe (I apologise to any Bretons I may have just insulted). What my flatmate pulled out of her bag that evening was no pancake. It was a distinct mix between a puff pastry and a cake, and there was a paper crown rested on top. The most intriguing part, however, was not the galette but what was hidden among the layers.
Back in the 14th century, there would’ve been a bean lingering somewhere inside the cake. At the soirée galette des rois, the youngest child would hide under the table, list all the guests and instruct the server who should be given the next piece of the cake. The first person to encounter the bean would get to be king or queen for the day. Since the 18th century, the bean (‘la fève) has evolved into a plastic model of some sort, which is still referred to as a bean today. We found a tiny cow figurine in ours.
There are various interpretations of the game, and whichever rules you follow, it’s a great chance for people all ages to come together in the dark months of winter and become children again. It’s new spin on games night, combined with a deliciously sweet pastry to snack on while you play. I was grateful to discover this tradition, especially after the buzz of Christmas and new year had died down and Blue Monday was approaching.
Maybe the party doesn’t have to end as the "grind" begins again, and here in the UK as exam season comes sliding in like an unsolicited text, we could take inspiration from France and host our very own soirées galette des rois.
Featured Image: By Isobel Edmondson
Bonne année ! How did you see in 2023?