Epiphany, what does this day celebrate? And why is a cake eaten on January 6th?

Published by Caroline J. · Photos by My B. · Published on 29 December 2021 at 17h30
After Christmas and New Year comes Epiphany. Celebrated every year on January 6th, this is the occasion to eat the famous Epiphany Cake. January 6th not being a public holiday, it is usually alright to start celebrating on the first Sunday of January, landing this year on January 2nd. But do you know why? Have you heard about the history and origins of Epiphany? Let us tell your more about it.

For many people, Epiphany is the day one eats the Epiphany Cake! But do you know exactly why and what is the story hiding behind January 6th?

You may have already guessed it, but the origin of Epiphany is religion-related. Epiphany – from Greek “epiphaneia” (“advent”, “arrival”) celebrates the arrival of the famous Three Kings (Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar – or Casper) to the child Jesus. Instated in the Occident by the Church circa the 4th century, this Christian celebration used to shine a light on the Magi’s spiritual values as they gifted Jesus when he was born.

But then, why do we eat cake on January 6th, on Epiphany day? This tradition does not originate from religion, but is actually 100% pagan. In the Roman Antiquity, during the Saturnalia holiday, roles were inverted between masters and slaves. And to design the “Prince of Saturnalia”, Romans used a cake in which a bean was put. Over time, this tradition evolved and coincided with Epiphany.

The Epiphany cake changes with regions. For instance, in South of France, people usually eat a brioche crown filled with candied fruits.


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