HISTORY OF FEVES

  • Féve is French for Fava Bean.   But the term is used to describe any small  trinket baked into epiphany cakes.  They are also called king cake babies, or baby dolls, epiphany charms, trinkets or figures.

 

  • For Centuries the French have been celebrating the Epiphany (Jan 6th which is the 12th day of Christmas) by baking King Cakes. Epiphany is when the three wise men or three kings came to Bethlehem to honor the birth of Christ.  In France the tradition is to bake a King Cake (also called a Gallette des Rois or Gateau des Rois) with a fava bean hidden inside the cake – whoever found the bean was “King” for the day!  In 1870, the fava bean was replaced with tiny ceramic or porcelain charm.  These antique little good luck charms were cherished and saved – and now are sought after by collectors.  In the  1980s, the féve collecting craze began in earnest, with introduction of various series and licensed designs. 

  • Ancient History It is believed that the hiding of a trinket in a cake stems from the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, where the one that found the trinket was called “King of the Feast”.  During this feast, conventional norms were overturned, and masters would often serve the slaves.  The slave that found the trinket was master for the day.

  • Many bakeries sell the cakes with cardboard Crowns – for the King to wear.

 

  • To insure the cake pieces are randomly distributed, it is a tradition to have the youngest guest duck under the table and name who each piece of cake is destined for.

 

  • Because of etiquette and protocol rules the French President can not be King for the Day, so the traditional cake served at the Elysée Palace is without a crown or figurine.

 

  • God’s Share: One tradition was to divide the cake in as many pieces as the number of guests  - plus one.  This extra share is for God, the Virgin Mary or the first poor person to visit the home.

 

  • Plastic Féves originated during World War I when porcelain was scarce.  It is very hard to tell these older plastic féves from newer versions – many are the exact same designs.  I have been told that the older plastic sinks, new plastic floats.  Also that when the old plastic pieces clink together it sounds like glass rather than plastic, the tone is higher.  Be careful there are many new plastic feves passed off as vintage on ebay and other sites. passed

  • If you collect Féves you are called a Fabophile in France.  It is a huge pastime and there are even conventions for collectors.

  • There are many types of collectors; "Completists” are those that like to collect entire series.  "Specialists" are those that like to collect by subject. 

You name it – you can collect it!

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