The journey of the Kings
For the past week, I have been enjoying eating the galette - or crown - of the Kings. You may know... It seems that this dessert arrived recently on the shelves of our bakeries, here in Quebec, perhaps under the influence of some French immigrant, who knows! But beware, if you go to La Vieille Alliance, for example, the only bakery in Aylmer to sell such a treat, you will face a dilemma: the "Frangipane", made with puff pastry and almond filling, or the "Bordelaise", lighter, like a brioche scented with orange blossom? What to choose? In both cases, there is a "bean" in the cake, traditionally a "bean", which has been replaced in recent decades by a small character or a collectible ceramic object. And you know what? Whoever finds the bean (without breaking a tooth) must bring a cake of the Kings in turn. Nice tradition, which I invite you to accompany with a tea or a coffee, at the end of the meal or for a snack.
But where does this tradition come from? In fact, the sharing of the Galette des Rois corresponds to the epiphany, in the Roman Catholic calendar, on January 6th of each year. The word "epiphany" itself literally means the appearance and, in fact, any manifestation of Christ to the world, such as the presentation of Christ as a child in the temple, his baptism in the Jordan River or the miraculous transformation of water into wine at Cana. However, popular tradition has restricted this use to the visit of three Magi from the East, probably by Zoroastrian priests who symbolize knowledge and science, shortly after the birth of Christ. According to Matthew in his gospel, his testimony, the magi were guided by a mysterious star, today known as the Shepherd's Star; once there, they placed myrrh, which symbolizes material wealth in the funeral ceremonies of kings at the time, and incense, which honours the deities, in front of the crib.
This story has no historical foundation, it was embellished in the Middle Ages, the three Magi became three kings named Gaspard, Melchior and Balthazar, and one of them became black in passing, to make the message more universal. Some would see this as pure propaganda. The cake would be an addition from the Roman Saturnalia; the bean hidden in the cake recalls the origin of Jesus, whom the Magi had sought, just as you will look for the precious object while chewing. And the fact that it is also called a crown obviously refers to the "royalty" of the three Magi.
These three mythical figures have made a long journey for a particularly noble cause, from the perspective of a believer: the recognition of a prophet, the Son of God. Nothing less. One can imagine the dangers they had to face, for the greater good, in a way, disregarding their little person. We too have our little kings, who decided to travel in times of pandemic, but for their own great good, without worrying about the consequences on others. We have moved from a time when people had a great sense of community, social responsibility and self-sacrifice to an era of ultra-individualism, where only individual pleasure counts; a pitiful moral evolution.