Friday, January 6, 2012


I thought it would be interesting to wander around the world and see how other countries celebrate January 6th. In our house, it is when the Christmas decorations come down and all the festive lights are turned off. It marks the end of the holiday season. This year I also decided to bake a Galette (courtesy of KAF). You can find the recipe here. But there were no hidden surprises!

Definition of epiphany: a Christian festival held on Jan. 6, commemorating, in the Western Church, the manifestation of Christ to the Magi and, in the Eastern Church, the baptism of Christ.

Traditions in different countries:

Belgium (my heritage): The Dutch and Flemish call this day Driekoningen, children in groups of three (symbolising the three kings) proceed in costume from house to house while singing songs typical for the occasion, and receiving a coin or some sweets at each door. Koningentaart(Kings' tart),a puff pastry with almond filling, is prepared with a bean or coin hidden inside. Whoever finds the bean in his or her piece is king or queen for the day. 

England: The celebration is also known as Twelfth Night and was a traditional time for mumming and the wassail. The yule log was left burning until this day.  A traditional dish for Epiphany was Twelfth Cake. As in Europe, whoever found the baked-in bean was king for a day, but unique to English tradition other items were sometimes included in the cake. Anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale, was considered proper Twelfth Night fare, recalling the costly spices brought by the Wise Men. Another English Epiphany dessert was the jam tart, but made into a six-point star for the occasion to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and thus called Epiphany tart. 

FRANCE: In France people eat gâteau des Rois in Provence (made of brioche) or the galette des Rois (puff pastry with almond cream) in the northern half of France and Belgium. This is a kind of king cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" for a day.

Ireland: The Irish call Epiphany Little Christmas or "Women's Christmas" (Irish: Nollaig na mBan). On the feast of the Three Kings the women of Ireland in times gone by had a bit of rest and celebration for themselves, after the cooking and work of the Christmas holidays. It has long been a custom for women to gather this day for a special high tea, but on the occasion of Epiphany accompanied by wine, to honor the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Today Irish women may spend the day shopping, take a meal at a restaurant or spend the evening at gathering in a pub. 

United States: In Colorado around Manitou Springs, Epiphany is marked by the Great Fruitcake Toss. Fruitcakes are thrown, participants dress as kings, fools, etc., and competitions are held for the farthest throw, the most creative projectile device, etc. As with customs in other countries, the fruitcake toss is a sort of festive symbolic leave-taking of the Christmas holidays until next year, but with humorous twist, since fruitcake (although the traditional Christmas bread of America, England and other English speaking nations) is considered in the United States with a certain degree of derision, and is the source of many jokes.
In Louisiana, Epiphany is the beginning of the Carnival season, during which it is customary to bake King Cakes. The person who finds the doll (or bean) must provide the next king cake. The Carnival season begins on King's Day (Epiphany).

1 comment:

moosecraft said...

Very interesting... on a "mountain top" near my home there is a family that lights a HUGE star about 3 stories high throughout the Christmas season... last night was the last it will shine until next Christmas... We have a very healthy tree this year (still drinking water) so, the tree will stay here another week! lol!