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Where does the tradition of the King Cake come from?

Where does the tradition of the King Cake come from?

During the month of January, and more particularly during the feast of the Epiphany - originally celebrated on January 6 - the tradition in places like France and the US State of Louisiana is to "pull out the kings" by tasting a delicious galette des rois! From the time of ancient Rome, the tradition of the king cake has been perpetuated over the centuries and remains today firmly rooted in family customs.

Discover everything about the tradition of the king cake, its history and the Christian symbolism that surrounds it. Live this tradition with Hozana, thanks to the beautiful prayer communities offered!


The King Cake: a tradition deeply rooted!

The tradition of the King Cake

The great tradition of the day of Epiphany is to "pull out the kings": a galette (a cake) is shared between guests, in the middle of which is a charm. Whoever finds the charm is declared king or queen for the day! 

Originally, the custom was to share the galette des rois with more than one’s own guests: this share was called "the share of God", the "share of the Virgin" or the "share of the poor", because it was offered to the first poor person to present themselves. 

Family Customs around the King Cake

In families, the tradition of the galette des rois is particularly appreciated by children. When sharing the cake, the youngest child is placed under the table and is responsible for designating the recipients of the different portions of cake.


Most often, the charm is found by a happy chance in the children's share: they then each choose their king or their queen.

For adults, the one who is crowned is responsible for offering the next cake, or the bottle of cider!

The Various Usages of the King Cake

With frangipane, compote, or chocolate, the traditional king cake takes many forms to satisfy all! The use also varies according to the French region or country.


In the south of France, for example, people eat a "crown of kings": a brioche bread in the shape of a crown, covered with sugar or candied fruit. In Provence, the charm is sometimes replaced by a santon.


In many Spanish-speaking countries, the Epiphany or day of the feast of the kings is a holiday: on this occasion, the children receive their Christmas gifts, thus taking up the symbolism of the gifts offered by the Magi to the child Jesus.

Finally, in some European countries (the Netherlands, Belgium) children parade in the streets on the day of kings: they show up at the doors of houses singing and receive sweets and mandarins.

Why do we eat the King Cake?

"Pulling out the kings": an ancient custom

The tradition of the King Cake comes from antiquity. On the day of the winter solstice, December 25, on the occasion of the Saturnalia - pagan festivals celebrating the God of the sun - during a shared meal, the Romans drew lots for one of their slaves and crowned him "king of the day". A round cake reminiscent of the sun, in which a charm was hidden, was used for the draw.

The Roman took the place of the slave for a day. This reversal of roles made it possible to strengthen the social ties between the slaves and their master.


In the 4th century, the Church instituted the feast of Epiphany as a Christian feast: "pulling out the kings" was subsequently associated with the celebration of the Magi. In the Middle Ages, kings were even pulled out at the table of the kings of France!


It is only starting from the thirteenth century that the first king cakes as we know them today appear: composed of puff pastry and filled with frangipane.

The Christian Symbolism of the King Cake

With the Christianization of ancient festivals, "pulling out the kings" on the day of the Epiphany has become a tradition with a strong symbolic dimension. The sharing of the cake thus symbolized the gifts offered by the Magi to the child Jesus.



Experience the Tradition of the King Cake with Hozana!

Synonymous with sharing and conviviality, the tradition of the King Cake is also an opportunity for everyone to meditate on the coming of the Magi to the crib, the search for God and the spirit of worship in which they find themselves!


You too should set out and seek Christ, for he is truly the light of the world! Here are some examples of prayer communities in order to meet the one who loves you tirelessly!


  • For 30 days, get to know Mary better through meditation!
  • Join us as we prepare for the Epiphany, the Revelation of God the Son!
  • 10 Minutes with Jesus is a daily guided meditation on the gospel reading of the day led by Catholic priests, an accessible way to encounter Christ in our daily lives.

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