How to Celebrate Epiphany Day in France

What do you know about how to celebrate Epiphany Day in France? Learn all about this holiday, including the famed Galette des Rois (King Cake).

How Epiphany Day - January 6th - is celebrated in France. Learn all about this holiday, including the famed galette des rois.

Celebrating Epiphany Day in France

Celebrated every year on January 6th, Epiphany Day commemorates the day the kings came to visit Jesus in the nativity story. The twelve days of Christmas mark the time between Christmas Day and this event.

I had never heard of Epiphany Day until my family moved to France when I was nine years old. There, this holiday was celebrated in our school classroom. The teacher brought in a Galette des Rois – king cake.

Do you recognize this special cake? Learn all about how Epiphany Day is celebrated in France

Galette des Rois – King Cake

King Cake is a very special cake that is eaten on Epiphany Day. The recipe of a traditional King Cake is quite elaborate. King Cakes are often decorated with elaborate patterns, such as you see in the photo above.

Children look forward to Epiphany Day, because you get to eat cake AND someone is declared King for the day.

Crowning a King or Queen

The Galette des Rois is used to determine the king. Traditionally, a baby – representing the baby Jesus – was hidden in the cake. The modern day cake sometimes has a baby, sometimes saints, and sometimes even cartoon characters! The figurines are often made out of ceramic so that they can be baked into the cake. Sometimes the character is made out of plastic, and placed into the bottom of the cake after it has been baked.

When the cake is sliced, one person – usually the youngest child – is sent under the table. This person then tells the server whom to give each cake slice to. The person who finds  the figurine inside their cake is then declared King (or Queen) for the day.

Eating King cake in France for epiphany day
Being royalty for the day usually comes with some privileges. The most common privilege when I was a child was that the King or Queen got to keep their little figurine. Sometimes there are also responsibilities. The King or Queen is often assigned the job of purchasing (or, if you are ambitious, baking) the King Cake for the following year. Most of the store-bought cakes come with a gold-foil crown that the King or Queen wears for the rest of the day.

How do you celebrate Epiphany Day?

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MaryAnne was raised in the United States, Guatemala, France, Bolivia, and Austria. Her first daughter was born in Scotland, and she now lives with her husband and their four children in Silicon Valley, California. You can find MaryAnne writing about family travel, parenting, crafts, and education at Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting.

3 thoughts on “How to Celebrate Epiphany Day in France”

  1. Great post! We celebrate it in Spain, too. The Three Wise Men bring the kids toys and other gifts on the night from the 5th to the 6th. And we also have a very similar cake, with figurine and crown included.

  2. Kings’ Day is celebrated big time in New Orleans! January 6 is also the first day of Carnival season, and the first day we traditionalists eat King Cake up until Mardi Gras day or Fat Tuesday. And everybody wants to get the King Cake Baby hidden inside. Happy Mardi Gras!

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