King or Queen for a day
We stopped off on our way back from St Malo, at a wonderful little place called Saint Suliac. Its only about 10 miles south of St. Malo. We had passed it several times and there seemed to be a wider expanse of river there forming its own bay. We decided to take a look. It was also excessively windy and I thought that by the time we have stopped off there it may have blown over so would be much more pleasant to drive back.
It is a lovely quaint little boating village. Steep winding roads and narrow paths meander down to get you down to the water’s edge. Lobster and crab pots nestle beside doorways alongside wellington boots. Fishermen’s nets are hung loosely over garden walls to dry in the air. Maybe a hundred or so small craft to get owners to their boats moored to buoys, line up in numbered storage spaces. There’s a boatyard with dinghies and catamarans awaiting finer weather to go sailing and racing. There’s fifty or more sailing boats jacked up on timber frames to expose all the hulls. As the barnacles and algae are scraped off they get new coats of paint and varnish ready for the spring. All pretty and quite typical of a small French boating village, except, when you look up!
Some of the houses have a tiny aperture in them, like a small display cabinet or tiny window-frame? I wasn’t expecting to be looking up at the first floor for these curious features. There is enough to catch the eye at eye level. On closer inspection I found that it was only some of the houses not all of them. They were built in as they were built and some of the houses were quite old. At least a hundred years or more. The other curious fact about these strange additions was that behind the glass door was a small type doll of the Virgin Mary and the infant child Jesus.
There is no denying that everywhere I have been in Brittany you are in an area that has been built on Catholic/Christian heritage. Crosses of Calvary are not just outside a church they are in the countryside lanes too. Churches are central in every town and village showing the huge reliance and importance they have played in Frances history. This particular curiosity appears to have been rooted in Catholicism. It is supposed to signify that the owners of the house are believers. That they are protected in their belief. So travellers in need of Christian mercy could call at the house for assistance but charlatans and rogues would have to change their ways as the house and its occupants were protected.
I found another strange tradition too, one that we decided to partake in.
Galette des rois
In January in France, it is tradition to eat Galette des Rois. This translates as King Cake. It is also known in the UK as Twelfth Night or Epiphany cake. In Tudor times it was eaten on the Twelfth night, January the sixth. The day the three kings visited the baby Jesus. Galette des Rois are sold and eaten all over France, complete with a paper or card, golden crown.
Historically, the cake contained a bean, now it contains a small ceramic figurine. Normally of a baby or similar effigy. Tradition also has it that the youngest person would sit under the table calling out who would receive each piece. Then the person who finds the figurine is crowned King or Queen for the day and is given the crown to wear. This is supposed to be a wonderful thing, but it can be quite fatal to the teeth of the person who finds the figure. They really are quite solid! And heavy. We got a little lamb in ours, “Behold, The Lamb of God,” cried John the Baptist, signifying that Jesus is our Saviour. He shall take the place of the sacrificial lamb to take away the sins of each and every one who calls on His name. Hallelujah!
They may have some different traditions, and some would say these are the traditions of men. I like the fact that whether at this time or in times gone by, they have been known by their outward shows of trust and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it be in the building of a house or the baking of a cake, the Lord Jesus was/is central to their lives.
Well, there is some traditions worth keeping we thought, Bertie, got the crown.