A scrumptious French custom can win you a night at The Snop House

Find the hidden bean in the cake of kings at top French boulangerie-pâtisserie Le Grenier à Pain to win a one-night stay at The Snop House boutique hotel

Many of us look forward to the festive months of December and January to spend time with family and friends, get time off work or school, and enjoy the Christmas feasting for days at a time.

The Snop House and its exclusive partner, Le Grenier à Pain, are eager to demonstrate their gastronomical French excellence by means of their products as well as their stellar hospitality.

So get to know some French tradition right here with the delectable Christmas Log and the famous Galette des Rois!

Up until the 1960s, the Epiphany was a feast that was still widely celebrated on 6 January. Often referred to as the feast of the Three Kings, it is traditionally celebrated 12 days after Christmas where Christians remember the ‘wise men’ who visited Jesus.

The day was preceded by pancakes being shared on the 5 January.

And while the Second Vatican Council of 1972 decided that the Epiphany be celebrated on the first Sunday after the 1 January, many countries refused the change and continued to celebrate on 6 January. In fact, the tradition of the cake-sharing occurs several times throughout January.

The Wise men or the Three Kings
The Wise men or the Three Kings

The ancient custom of sharing the cake

But the sharing of the pancake has nothing to do with religion. It was always part of the celebrations around the winter solstice, as a practice conducive to divinations.

The celebrations are linked to the Roman-era Saturnalia celebrations, in honour of the god Saturn, where masters and slaves were treated in the same way, everyone eating at the same table.

Traditionally, the cake would be divided into as many pieces as there are guests, plus one. Here the householder would ask the youngest person in the family, deemed to be the most innocent, to designate to whom each piece of cake should be served. The child was generally nicknamed ‘Phebe’ (for Phebus or Apollo). Nowadays, the tradition still takes place and it is indeed common that the youngest person sits underneath the table and announces the name of one of the guests when a piece is cut.

During the Middle Ages, the extra piece, dubbed ‘God’s share’, ‘the Virgin Mary’s share’ or ‘the poor man’s share’, was intended for the first poor person that made an appearance.

The Roman Saturnalia
The Roman Saturnalia

Celebrating the king!

‘Electing a king’ on 5 January was a custom going all the way back to Saturnalia but still common during the Middle Ages, where the person who finds the bean in the ‘king’s drink’ would have to pay for the drinks on his table. Many claim that the stingiest of people would swallow the bean to avoid paying for the drinks.

The bean was in fact one of the symbols of the winter solstice – apart from being the first vegetable to grow in the spring, just like an egg, it contains an embryo. As the bean ages, it gives life. Even in Greek history, the bean is said to contain the soul of the dead... so the beans would be thrown at people’s backs on the days of 9, 11 and 13 May to expel the shadows of the dead.

In this custom, size is also important. The bean-vegetable should be flat and not too big, or too small. It should not be able to be swallowed whole.

The cake of kings

In France, the cake of the kings – the Gallette des Rois – is traditionally a puff pastry cake, in which a bean is hidden. Chiselled with crossed notches, the cake turns a beautiful golden brown in the oven and is stuffed with frangipane, a cream made with sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. A cardboard crown is often served as an add-on to the cake and it is said that whoever finds the bean is crowned and then may choose their queen or king. Many claim that the cake was brought to life by a Florentine nobleman, the Marquis of Frangipani, several centuries ago.

The Galette des Rois
The Galette des Rois

Continuing the tradition

Rendez-vous by The Snop and Le Grenier à Pain bake a lot of pancakes but they have a special surprise this time around. Enveloped within one of their pancakes, you may come across a special bean! The bean is decorated with the eye of Osiris, which symbolises fertility, physical integrity, the full moon and good health.

Win a night at Snop House, boutique hotel in Senglea

The finder of the special bean will win a one-night stay at The Snop House boutique hotel, which can be redeemed during the season spring. The winner will then go back to the shop where they bought the galette to get the voucher against the special bean.

Celebrate the Epiphany differently this year with Le Grenier à Pain and Rendez-vous by The Snop. You can pre-order the Galette des Rois online, two days prior, here.

this unique bean was produced by Alka Ceramics
this unique bean was produced by Alka Ceramics

Find them here: Rendez-vous by The Snop, 21 bis Victory Street, Senglea (Isla)

Or Le Grenier à pain, 58, Triq il-Kummerċ, Mrieħel Industrial Estate, Qormi

Or Frensh, Balluta Buildings, Triq il-Kbira, San Ġiljan

Or Le Grenier à pain, Karizia Building, 69 Triq Ġorġ Borg Olivier, Mellieħa