While it is not easy to go back to school after a long, relaxing Christmas break, Sartans had two good reasons to run to French class in early January: celebrating epiphany with the traditional Parisian King’s cake and opening the letters and gifts that their pen pals from Rennes had mailed during the break. As you may know, SPX has an exchange program with le Lycée Chateaubriand, a reputable public high school in Rennes, Britany, northwestern France. Such a program provides a wonderful opportunity for students to communicate with authentic native speakers, share information about each other’s culture and practice one’s writing and reading comprehension skills in the French language. Sartans were indeed very excited to open their letters and gifts which ranged from locally made cookies to French chocolate, perfume, jewelry, caramels and lots of French family photos. This exchange program is also a fun, authentic avenue to motivate students to learn a foreign language.
Vive le roi, vive la reine! Long live the king and the queen! Early January, all French classes at St Pius celebrated our annual epiphany in the traditional French fashion by tasting the delicious Galette des Rois (king’s cake) made by our local French baker Daniel from the French Riviera Bakery. In this cake made of almond paste, a tiny object representing baby Jesus or a royalty icon and called la fève is hidden. It is usually made of plastic or porcelain although it used to be a fava bean in the 18th century. The person who finds la fève in their cake is declared king or queen of the day. A crown is then placed on the king or queen’s head, and the king will nominate his queen, or vice versa. Now, not surprisingly, after the 1789 French Revolution, the ‘kings’ feast’ was abolished, and as to not upset the people, renamed "The feast of good neighbors." The cake took the name of Equality or Liberty Cake, similar to the recent time when French fries were renamed freedom fries by some American restaurant owners when France opposed the US attack on Iraq in 2003. In post-revolutionary France, the lucky person who had the cake slice containing the fève would not be crowned, but offered to put on a ‘phrygian’ (revolutionary) hat.
In addition to having fun while learning French, French classes are now working hard to prepare for the National French Contest on March 17, a very competitive test taken by 100,000 students across the nation! Top Frenchstudents have fared well with this test over the past 5 years and have been state champions as well as ranked in the top 10 nationally. But since nothing comes easy, “il y a du pain sur la planche, that is there is bread on the plank; meaning, lots of work to tackle!
SIGN-UP for French next year: We offer French I to French IV classes, including honors classes, all taught by a native French speaker.