The bean and the epiphany

Episode of Wednesday, January 11, 2023 at 12:20 PM

During the epiphany, the ovens smell the smell of frangipane that emanates from the galette des rois. The bean awaits its king during a tradition which will be the subject of today’s chronicle.

What do we celebrate at the epiphany ?

Last feast of the Christmas cycle, the Epiphany celebrates the visit that Jesus received from the 3 Magi. The galette des rois is traditionally cut and a king is designated.

When do we celebrate ?

Traditionally, the first Sunday following 1er January. It is therefore a moveable feast. But in the past, it was always held on January 6, to respect the sacred period of 12 days.

An ancestral pre-Christian tradition

The galette des rois originates from the Saturnalia (Roman festivals of the winter solstice period paying homage to Saturn, god of agriculture and time), during which the Romans designated a slave as “king for a day”. . A meal was then shared between the masters and the slaves and a bean (a bean) was slipped into a cake or a pancake whose round and golden aspect recalled the sun. These Saturnalia favored the reversal of roles in order to thwart the harmful days of Saturn, divinity of hell.

The origin of this Roman festival goes back even further, from the IIe century BC in ancient Babylon, where there was a feast of role reversal, the Sacae, equivalent to the Saturnalia.

To ensure the random distribution of shares of cake, it was customary for the youngest to stand under the table and name the beneficiary of the share which was designated by the person in charge of the service.

The tradition was preserved after Christianization, the Church having made the feast coincide with the celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings in front of the cradle of the child Jesus. As for the current galette, made of puff pastry and frangipane, it would have arrived much later, at the end of the 17th century.e century.

The bean

The combination of the cake and the bean is not fortuitous and takes on its full symbolic meaning. The bean is also part of the symbols of the winter solstice. The bean has always symbolized the embryo, development and fertility for most peoples.

Then, appear at the end of the XVIIIe century porcelain fèves, often depicting swaddled infants, always as a sign of fertility.

In conclusion

If today, the galette des rois is associated with the Christian tradition, it nevertheless finds its origins in ancestral traditions. By its round shape and its golden color, the cake symbolizes the sun, renewal, life. Offered in sacrifice, the bean made it possible to communicate with the invisible, especially at the time of spring festivals and those of sowing. Isn’t spring a kind of reincarnation? So enjoy a good galette, accompanied by a glass of cider, while toasting nature which is slowly waking up.

Chronicle produced by Gilles, ethnobotanist and mycologist.

We wish to thank the writer of this article for this amazing material

The bean and the epiphany

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