French King Pie Traditions and Vocabulary

French King's Pie Vocabulary and Traditions
My Daughter Leyla with "la fève" /

On January 6th is the Christian holy day of Epiphany, when the three kings, also called the three wise men, guided by a strange star in the sky, visited baby Jesus. On that day the French eat "La Galette des Rois", a delicious puff pastry pie.

The lighter version is just the puff pastry, eaten golden out of the oven and then topped with jam. But there are many scrumptious versions, including various fruit, cream, apple sauce filings and my personal favorite: frangipane! 

In the South of France, they have a special cake called "le gâteau des rois" which is a brioche with candied fruits, shaped in a crown, and perfumed with orange blossom water.

French King Pie Secret

Now, the secret of "la galette des rois" is that hidden inside is a little surprise: a small token, usually a porcelain figurine (sometimes plastic now...) called "la fève". The one who finds it is crowned the king or the queen of the day. So, when you eat this delicacy, you have to be extremely careful not to break a tooth! 

The French King Pie is sold with a paper crown - sometimes, kids do one as a project for their home, or sometimes they do two since a king gets to pick his queen and vice and versa.

French "Galette des Rois" Traditions

Traditionally, the youngest one at the table will go under the table (or really close his/her eyes) and designate who gets which slice: the one serving asks:

  • C'est pour qui celle-là ? For whom is this one? And the kid answers:
  • C'est pour Maman, Papa... It's For Mom, Dad...

Of course, this is a very practical way for the grownups to make sure one of the kids gets the porcelain figurine.

Another tradition dictates that you cut the pie according to the number of guests plus one. It's called "la part du pauvre" (the pauper's slice) and was traditionally given away. I don't know anybody who does this nowadays however. 

 So, the person who finds "la fève" proclames: "J'ai la fève" (I have the fava), s/he puts one the crown, then picks someone at the table to be crowned as his king/queen, and everybody yells "Vive le roi / Vive la reine" (long live the king / long live the queen). Then everybody eats their slices, relieved that no one broke a tooth :-)

French King's Pie Vocabulary

  • La Galette des Rois - French King Pie Puff Pastry
  • Le Gâteau des Rois - South of France King Cake
  • Une fève - the little porcelain figure hidden in the pie
  • Une couronne - a crown
  • Être Courronné - to be crowned
  • Tirer les rois - to draw the king/queen
  • Un roi - a king
  • Une reine - a queen
  • Puff pastry - de la pâte feuilletée
  • C'est pour qui celle-là ? For whom is this one?
  • C'est pour... - It's for...
  • J'ai la fève ! I have the fava!
  • Vive le roi - Long live the king
  • Vive la reine - long live the queen

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Your Citation
Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "French King Pie Traditions and Vocabulary." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. (2023, April 5). French King Pie Traditions and Vocabulary. Retrieved from Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "French King Pie Traditions and Vocabulary." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).