The New International Encyclopædia/Bean-King's Festival

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BEAN-KING'S FES′TIVAL. A social rite principally observed in France, from which country it would seem to have been transplanted to Germany. On the evening of Twelfth Day, the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), companies assemble to spend a few hours in mirthful relaxation. A large cake is baked, with a bean hidden somewhere in it. The cake is then divided into pieces, each person present receiving one, and whoever obtains the piece with the bean is king for the year. In this capacity he holds a mock court and receives the homage of the company, who also amuse themselves with other diversions. The Bean-King, however, is compelled to pay for his dignity, for he has to give an entertainment on the next Twelfth Night, that an opportunity may be afforded to choose another king. In France this custom was, at an earlier period, so common that even the Court indulged in it, although the Church, in the Seventeenth Century, exerted itself zealously for its suppression. It has left a trace in the popular expression for a lucky man, ‘Il a trouvé la fève au gateau’ (‘he has found the bean in the cake’). The opinion that the Bean-King's Festival owes its origin to the Roman saturnalia, when even the children, partaking in the universal glee, were wont to elect a king, is not destitute of probability.