New Year’s Traditions

My First 2012 New Year's Card

I’ve gotten several lovely New Year’s cards over the past week both from Japan and France.  In Japan, like in France, it is customary to send New Year’s cards to friends and family.  Sending Christmas cards, at least here in France, is relatively new.  I only received one French Christmas card this year.  Our mailbox, however, has been spoiled with New Year’s cards since last Monday.  New Year’s wishes can be sent anytime during the month of January.  One of my friends makes a point of sending his cards on January 31st claiming that as long as the postmark reads January, the card counts.  Most people I know, try to make sure their cards arrive during the month.  Japanese New Year’s cards all arrive on January 1st in Japan!  The Japanese postal service offers a special January 1st delivery for cards marked nengajō and placed in special mailboxes during mid- to late-December.  The cards arrive on the January 1st neatly wrapped together and full of wishes for the new year.  I think this is a neat idea!  This year’s cards all share a similar theme–the Year of the Dragon!

Happy New Year Hello Kitty

Kagami mochi, a special New Year’s rice cake, are a treat in Japan this time of year.  While I can’t think of a specific New Year’s desert or food here, I can think of one you eat at the beginning of the year–la Galette des Rois!  In France, the holiday season winds to its close with Epiphany.  While originally a strictly Christian religious holiday celebrating the Three Kings visit to baby Jesus, today most people associate it first and foremost with its namesake desert.  Epiphany was actually last Friday, January 8th but there’s no reason not to try a galette today, tomorrow or any day!  Each galette has a small fêve or little figurine hidden in it.  Some people actually collect fêves and display them once a year.  The person who finds the fêve in their slice becomes the King or Queen for the day; they even get a paper crown to wear!  Laura wanted to be Queen this year more than anything else.  Unfortunately for her, Elise got the fêve!  She’ll get another chance on Thursday when her class makes their galette.  My neighbor graciously shared her recipe with me–

Galette des Rois


  • 2 packages puff pastry
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar + 100 grams sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 100 grams almond flour
  • 100 grams butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: fêve (small figurine that goes in the cake)
  1. Make the almond mixture: In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond flour, butter, 100 grams sugar, vanilla, and two eggs together until combined.
  2. In a small pot over medium high heat, mix together the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar, with the cornstarch, flour, vanilla, milk and remaining eggs.  Continue stirring until the mixture thickens–about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the thickened cream mixture to the almond mixture.  Stir well.
  4. Place your first puff pasty disk (if your puff pastry is not round, roll it to fit your tart pan) in the tart pan and prick with a fork.
  5. Pour the filling into the tart pan and add the fêve if using.
  6. Cover with the second puff pastry circle.
  7. Crimp the edges together. Score with a knife and then paint the galette with a battered egg mixed with a bit of water.
  8. Bake at 220°C (aprox. 425°F) for 35 minutes.  (My galette cooked much faster–closer to 30 minutes and I only baked it at 210°C/410°F–but my oven systematically bakes things faster than the recommended time.)
  9. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Enjoy!
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One Response to New Year’s Traditions

  1. Pingback: Sweet Thoughts in the Mail | Postcards from a Small Place

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