FESTIVE RITUAL DESCRIPTION: Every January 6 during Epiphany her mother would cook a cake called a “galette des rois” which means a cake for the kings. Inside they would place a small ceramic figure called a “fève” and whoever cut the cake and got the piece would be named king and could order everyone around for the whole day.
INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Female, French, 42
CONTEXT: She learned this from her family who would do this every New Years Eve. She remembers how much fun it was when she got the “fève” and how she spent the whole day as the queen. She says this would bring the whole family together and make everyone laugh and have so much fun.
THOUGHTS: I think this sounds delicious and fun. Definitely something I wish my family celebrated.
RITUAL DESCRIPTION: Consumption of lentil salad on New Years Eve to bring wealth.
INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Female, 42, French
CONTEXT: This woman told me that her most prized ritual is that every New Years Eve she and her family would eat lentil salad in order to call wealth. She said the little lentils symbolize coins. Her mother and entire family did this as she grew up. The little “coins” are meant to be abundance and eating them is calling wealth into the upcoming year.
THOUGHTS: I see how lentils could be like little coins. I find this ritual interesting because lentil salad is popular in France but I never knew it had this double meaning. It seems to make sense although I’ve never heard of such an interesting food on New Years Eve.
CONTEXT: This woman’s mother used to sing this song to her, in her crib, when she was a baby. Then she grew up and sang it to her children. It is a French nursery rhyme used to put children to sleep. She said she sometimes even still sang it to her adult children when they had trouble sleeping. It is very tender to her and a very sweet memory. She hopes to sing it to her grandchildren.
TRANSLATION: Are you sleeping
Are you sleeping?
Morning bells are ringing
Morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong
Ding ding dong
THOUGHTS: The translation has been adapted to English. Changing a typical French name of Jacques to John. Interestingly so because it seems the point of the French words are their melodic quality and annotation that don’t translate to english. I have definitely heard this song before but did not know the context.
CONTEXT: This woman learned this proverb in France growing up. In boarding school it was written in a children’s book but growing up it was clearly a popular saying. It is says when things are awry and the advice is to eat something sweet. Kind of like a remedy proverb and can also just be said in the context of eating something sweet and referencing life, the importance of sweets. Can also be used when one is sad and the advice is to eat chocolate.
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “La vie est dure sans confiture.”
THOUGHTS: I think this translates over to some remedies used in the west, the belief that chocolate is good to eat when sad. While we don’t connect the two the same way, sweats and life, we do in the case of the phrase “comfort food” or even “stress eating”.
L: It’s believed that if someone puts their hat on their bed they are too ill or injured to set it down where it needs to be.
E: What happens if you do set a hat on a bed?
L: You get all sorts of bad luck.
E: Is it all headwear or just hats?
L: Glasses are fine. But I stray from putting beanies or anything else of the sort.
E: Where did you hear this from?
L: I heard it from my father when I was a little girl.
E: What does it mean to you?
L: It makes me a bit less lazy. I have to remind myself to place my hat where it needs to be or else I receive supernatural consequences.
This is a family member of mine from France. I was taught this superstition at a very young age and it came to mind when beginning my research. I called said family member and transcribed our phone call.
This sort of story works well to deter laziness. I feel as though all superstitions hold some sort of deeper meaning or lesson. I wonder circa what year this came from and by proxy the circumstances that created it. I think it is interesting to people who follow superstitions for fear of sway in their faith. I personally heard this superstition when I was younger and have since always practiced it. I won’t even let friends put their hats on beds.