On this 12th day of Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of the magi to offer their gifts and their worship to the toddling little Jesus. “Epiphany” literally means to “show” or “manifest,” for the Christ child was first revealed to the rest of the world on this special day. It’s a time to sing “We Three Kings,” to reflect on the gifts we have to share, and most importantly, to eat king cake.
In France, this type of cake is known as a galette des rois. It consists of a flaky pastry crust stuffed with a sweet apple filling. Hidden in the pastry crust is the fève, which is a ceramic figurine, most often of a saint. The person who receives the fève dons a gold paper crown and becomes king or queen for the day.
I love this tradition so much that I could not wait until Epiphany to celebrate this year. When I was in New Orleans, we stumbled on an authentic French boulangerie, where we bought a king cake in honor of the new year. My friend Anne-Lise found the fève, which happened to be a Betty Boop doll, and proudly sported the crown.
What I treasure most about this tradition is the joyful surprise of discovering that hidden fève. When you assume your piece of cake is as ordinary as everyone else’s, suddenly you uncover something extraordinary in the midst of it. Joy in the monotony of our days. Hope in the midst of despair. Peace in the depths of grief. Love in the wake of brokenness. Perhaps that’s the most that any of us can hope in the new year – that our slice of life will contain an extra dose of joy, hope, peace, or love to surprise us today.