Culture: Exploring the Festival of the Kings

What is the Festival of the Kings?

Join Lidia in Normandy as she celebrates the Festival of the Kings with her family.

Find out what food they eat in France and the traditions that take place on this special day.

Exploring the Festival of the Kings with Lidia

When is the Festival of the Kings?

The Festival of the Kings takes place on 6 January, the 12th day after Christmas (listen Noël), when Christians celebrate Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Kings after the birth of Jesus.

Markets in France

Lidia and her mother travel to the market (listen le marché) to buy some food for the celebration.

Markets are an important part of life in France. Most towns and villages have a market at least once a week selling local produce.

Did you spot what they were selling at the market in the video?

listen les friteschips
listen les fruitsfruit
listen les légumesvegetables
listen le poissonfish
listen la viandemeat
Kings' Cake

How do French people celebrate the festival?

Like many families, Lidia buys a Kings’ Cake, (listen une Galette des Rois), a special cake made of pastry and almonds.

A charm is hidden inside the cake and whoever receives the piece of cake with the charm (listen la fève) in it, becomes king (listen le rois) or queen (listen la reine) for the day. They wear a special crown (listen une couronne).

A charm found in the Kings' Cake

Festivals and celebrations in France

Can you think of other times, when you might celebrate with your family like this? What about New Year and birthdays?

Here are some celebrations that take place in France:

  • Christmas - listen Noël

In France, after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, some families gather together for a feast called listen le réveillon. This is usually a seafood starter and a main course such as goose, chicken, turkey, chestnuts and oysters followed by a dessert. This might be a yule log, a log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts.

In Provence, in the south of France, there’s a tradition of having 13 desserts!

In the north and north-east of France, the feast day of Saint-Nicolas is also celebrated on 6 December, when Father Christmas (listen le Père Noël) brings small gifts and sweets for children.

  • New Year - listen la Saint-Sylvestre

New Year’s Eve is celebrated with friends on 31 December. People have parties and towns and villages might have fireworks or dances.

  • Easter - listen Pâques

People give each other chocolate eggs and chocolate bells at Easter and there are Easter egg hunts like in the United Kingdom. It’s not the Easter Bunny who delivers the eggs, but the Easter Bells (listen les cloches de Pâques). It is a tradition to serve a special dinner of lamb.

  • May Day - listen la fête du Muguet

The 1 May is celebrated around the world as a spring holiday and in France it is celebrated by giving friends and loved ones a small bouquet of Lily of the Valley (listen le muguet) for good luck.

  • Eid - listen Aïd

Eid is 'The Feast of Breaking the Fast' and is celebrated by Muslims in France and worldwide to mark the end of Ramadan. People decorate their homes, spend time with their friends and family and eat a special celebratory meal.

  • Hanukkah - listen Hanoucca

Jewish families in France celebrate Hanukkah or The Festival of Lights (listen la fête des Lumières) in November or December every year. It lasts for eight days. A candle is lit on each day of the festival and families eat fried doughnuts (listen des beignets frits) to celebrate the miracle of oil.

What to say at celebrations in France

Here are some useful phrases to say at celebrations in France:

listen Aïd Moubarak !Eid Mubarak!
listen bonne année !Happy New Year!
listen bon anniversaire !Happy Birthday!
listen joyeux Hanoucca !Happy Hanukkah!
listen joyeux Noël !Happy Christmas!

Did you know?

Lidia has lunch at her grandfather’s house. In French, if you want to say you are at somebody's house, you add listen chez before the person. For example, to say 'at my grandfather’s house', you say listen chez mon grand-père.

  • listen chez ma grand-mère – at my grandmother's house

  • listen chez moi – at my house

  • listen chez mon ami – at my friend's house (boy)

  • listen chez mon amie – at my friend's house (girl)

Key French words

listen une couronnea crown
listen le déjeunerlunch
listen mon frèremy brother
listen une galettea cake
listen ma grand-mèremy grandmother
listen mon grand-pèremy grandfather
listen mon pèremy father

Where next?

Discover more from around Bitesize.

French: Food and drink
French: Talking about family
French: Talking about yourself
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