Friday, January 7, 2011

A Pastry for Every Holiday


On its country profile of Luxembourg, the US State Department writes that it is against Luxembourg law to collect information about religious practices...but our Luxembourg guide book says that the country is 90% Roman Catholic, so we'll go with that figure. Being such a Catholic country, there are a number of religious holidays that are celebrated much more widely here (and throughout Europe) than I ever noticed being celebrated back home in the US. And there seems to be a delicious pastry to go with every single one of them.

Yesterday, January 6, was Three Kings Day. From what I've heard and learned online, Three Kings Day is the 12th day of Christmas - just like the song - and marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Epiphany. This is the day that the Three Kings, after following a star, arrived in Bethlehem to deliver gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. 

In Luxembourg, one of the traditional ways in which this event is celebrated is by eating a galette des rois, or "king's cake". The cake is a large buttery, flaky pastry that can be filled with fruit or frangipane (an almond flavored filling). Inside the cake is a small ceramic figure that is hidden; the person who eats the slice containing the ceramic figure gets to wear the crown that accompanies the cake when purchased. So, kind of like the king's cake served around Mardi Gras, but a different style of cake that comes with a ceramic figure inside instead of a plastic baby. 

Since we have no business eating a galette that could feed 6-8 people, Nick and I opted to share a smaller single serving cake last night. Our galette was too small for a ceramic figure, so it didn't come with a crown, either (but let's face it, we all know who would be wearing the crown in this household... :) ) The pastry was buttery and flaky and filled with a thin layer of frangipane. It was a bit dry, so we wouldn't say it was the absolute best pastry we've ever eaten - we are pretty spoiled to have so many French style p√Ętisseries in Luxembourg, and we've only tried a small portion of the delicious treats they offer - but it was fun to do the taste test. So if you try one, just be sure to have a cup of tea or coffee nearby...and if you try the big one with the hidden porcelain figure, be careful where you bite!

There is a great blog post from another American living in Luxembourg about her family's experience eating one of these king cakes last year: http://sycamorestirrings.blogspot.com/2010/01/3-kings-day.html

And for a small taste of how another culture celebrates, here is a good article about Three Kings Day as it's celebrated in the Puerto Rican community: http://www.diversityinc.com/content/1757/article/5044/

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