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Gilles Marini Imports French Tradition to Hollywood

12/23/2009 at 05:00 PM ET

Make no mistake: Gilles Marini takes Christmas very seriously. He buys a tree right after Thanksgiving and keeps it up well into January. And the French actor says he always makes sure “there are a lot of gifts under that tree” on Christmas morning for his children Georges, 10, and Juliana, 3, with his wife Carole, 32.

Even though he’s lived in Los Angeles for a decade, Gilles — who waltzed his way to second place on Dancing With the Stars and currently stars on Brothers & Sisters — makes it a point to inject a taste of France into his family’s holidays by celebrating Three Kings Day on January 6th.

Jonathan Skow for PEOPLE for use on CBB

See more exclusive photos — and read about how the family celebrates Three Kings Day — below!

To commemorate the day the three wise men visited baby Jesus, Carole, who is also French, bakes an almond-flavored confection called a galette des rois (kings cake) with a special surprise.

Jonathan Skow for PEOPLE for use on CBB

“Inside the cake is a little toy called a fêve [lucky charm]. It’s usually a porcelain Christmas figurine or a tiny animal,” explain Gilles. “Whoever gets the toy in their slice gets to wear a crown.” But the protective father quickly adds that his kids chew “very carefully, so they don’t break a tooth!”

Jonathan Skow for PEOPLE for use on CBB

Though Gilles, 33, has embraced the Christmas customs here, “it’s nice to mix the traditions,” he says. So as in France, the Marinis don’t put gifts under the tree before December 25th and Christmas Eve dinner involves turkey as well as fois gras, salmon and oysters.

Jonathan Skow for PEOPLE for use on CBB

Santa also goes by the name Papa Noel. “I told Georges that Santa is lightning fast and you cannot see him. Then he explains how it is to his sister, and she looks at him with awe,” Gilles says. “I want to teach my kids that Christmas is pure magic.”

Jonathan Skow for PEOPLE for use on CBB

Source: PEOPLE; Holiday issue

– Blaine Zuckerman and Monica Rizzo

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Showing 47 comments

Tyannah on

It is “Fève” and not “Fêve”.
Cute pics but too much “unreal”.
It’s funny because here in France he is absolutely NOT a celebrity at all. Never heard about him. I’ve asked some of my friends, and just the same for them. Don’t know who he is.
Here in France you will NEVER meet a 10 years’ old Georges, they are around 80 here.
Juliana is a pretty name.

Annie on

He buys it just after Thanksgiving and keeps it up until Three Kings Day?! Sorry but all I’m thinking is holy dried out fire hazard!

Allie-Rose on

It’s great to see Gilles and Carole “exported” their tradition, but oh my gosh, I hate galette des rois! I love almonds but I can’t stand the taste of frangipane (almond-flavoured paste inside the galette).
And the Christmas Eve dinner, which we call “réveillon,” is a relatively new tradition in France.

Michelle on

What a beautiful family. I love how they are merging American and French traditions.

fergette on

What a beautiful family. I really like the concept that Christmas is pure magic.

Jane on

Gilles and his wife look alike, i find that weird. Those kids are cute.

Sonya on

It’s called The Epiphany in English not Three Kings Day!

Bénédicte on

I totally agree with Tyannah,
I’m french, I’ve never heard about him, and I “hope” that his son is named after is grandpa or something like that!

Brianna on

Georges is stunning! And he is such an awesome big brother; he obviously adores Juliana, and she looks up to him.

Alice on

Yep it’s the epiphany. I thought that tradition was all over the world (wel at least in occidental cultures) and I was baffled when I couldn’t find the galette in England.

Odile on

I love the French attitude coming through in the comments. My husband is French and says the same thing about names being too “old”. We also celebrate three kings day, the kids LOVE it.

julia on

He name his son after his dad as I read, cause his dad died when Gilles was 18, and for the one who never heard of him (whatever) sex and the city the movie, criminal mind or we can say espri criminel in France and brother and sister etc…. and by the way, my grandma is french and she and all the people I know in France are celebrating the reveillon( Christmas eve) and my grandma is not young, I do not think it is that new, maybe Halloween I will say yes but not Christmas eve.
I love the way they are proud of where they from but also where they are leaving now.
LOVE THEM

Annalee on

I have never heard of Three Kings Day, but I love that idea!

Sophia on

When I was in France last year we celebrated Three Kings’ Day with several Galette des Rois, and it was essential that everyone in the family ate a slice each time. Never again.
By the way, cute family! I love the photo of Juliana kissing Georges’ cheek :)

FC on

Their family dog is in adorable in that little tiara. As well as that last one of the kids cuddling the dog with Gilles and Carole. Such an adorable family.

Juli on

give it a rest, you people nit pick every single thing about people on here….whatever!
I too, refer to January 6 as the Epiphany, but to a magazine like People, that is probably too Christian and need to call it something along the lines like Festivus….

Electra on

That little girl is gorgeous! Look at those doe eyes. Her face is beautiful

Bugs on

Is it me or Gilles and his wife look alike a lot! He reminds me of Brazilian soccer player Kaka and his wife who look like brother and sister.

Cécile on

Julia,Allie Rose didn’t write that Christhmas eve was new but the Christmas eve dinner was relatively new. I think by that she means the profusion of food on the 24th.For centuries french regions were dominated by the catholic church,the weeks before christmas and on christmas eve, people fasted.The huge feast was to be taken after the Midnight Mass,which technically is on the 25th.The big meal was the Christmas meal,the one celebrating the birth of Jesus.It was improper to celebrate a thing before it occured.
After the decline of these traditions (early 20th century, I would say),it became the trend to binge on the 24th. But yes, it’s “relatively” new, even if your grandmother does it since her childhood.

Allie-Rose on

Merci Cécile. Yes, I’m French too, and that’s what I meant. Christmas réveillon never was a tradition in any French family I know until a few years ago. It could be locally, but not in Paris so far as I know. In my own family, it just started with my Dad wanting to open the presents at Midnight.

Shannon on

I thought he was Italian! He has those dark, sultry Italian looks!
I loved the picture where the sister kissed her brother on the cheek.Very sweet
Glad he feels so festive

liline on

I’m French too and I agree with previous comments.However I’d like to point out that epiphany is celebrated in New Orleans! here in the US! It’s a Catholic thing I guess.

sabine on

I’am french and like other, I’ve never heard about him. But the HUGE surprise is to discover that the tradition of the “Galette des rois” is not famous all over the world. I thinked it was famous in all occidental countries because it’s a catholic tradition (but it’s more a family tradition now: a moment to enjoy food together)

and you could have delicious “galette” with applesauce inside! miam miam!!

Joyeux Noël!

Allie-Rose on

Sabine, I am half Greek too and the galette des rois tradition is completely unknown in Greece, although it is traditional to put a coin in the New Year’s Day cake, and it serves the same lucky charm purpose as the fève.
After looking around on the Internet, I found out it dates as far back as Antique Roman. Once a year, towards the end of December/beginning of January, they celebrated the Kings and each family would make a cake with a broad bean (“fève” in French) inside that was used as a “ballot” to elect “the King of the party”

suse on

I’m from Spain and here we have also celebrate the “Kings’ Day” on January 6th (Epiphany, though we never refere to this day like that)and we eat the galette des rois (we called “roscón de Reyes”). In Spain, though, inside the roscón we put a little figure (normally representing one of the Kings) and the bean or féve (“haba”): the one who gets the little figure is coronated the king of the day and the one who gets the haba has to pay for the roscón. Normally it’s never paid, but the tradition says that.

XOXO12 on

I am Mexican and in my family we celebrate ‘dia de los 3 reyes magos’ which is 3 kings day on January 6th. We do the ‘rosca’ which is a round cake with a whole in the middle, sort of like a big donut, inside the cake there is a little figurine and whoever wins the figurine gets to wear a crown also and he/she is the special person of the day. I am 28 years old and we have done this since I was a little girl. Also children get a small gift (a book, a movie, etc.)inside a shoe under the tree. We also keep our tree up until January 6th.

Gilles family is gorgeous!! I love his accent…I hope he comes back to Brothers and Sisters…oh and he was yummy in Sex on the City the movie…lol

Lau on

We also celebrate día de los reyes magos (three kings’ day) here in Argentina, but as far as I know, there isn’t any figurine tradition like you guys have mentioned in Spain and Mexico! We do eat rosca, though =)

Odile on

Allie-Rose – it may be regional, my in-laws are in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and have a huge meal on the 24th followed by present opening. It makes for a late night and some cranky kids, at least it did for my American raised kids!

Franca on

OMG! The french comment are like always full of “jalousie”.
They have a guy that came to a different country worked hard become so famous and rich without any help not even any English. And the only thing those people are commenting is “we don’t Know him” guess what we are happy you don’t him, his ours now and I am sure he left because of this negative vibe and stupid mean people. Georges is a beautiful name full of history and was also the name of his Dad that he loved so much . How do you feel now ?

I am glad I learned about this “3 kings day” I am going to try to make this “Galette”.
Back to Gilles , this man will not stop till He gets an Oscar and will all here in America support him . Would love to see him on dancing with the stars again, he was the best star dancer ever and he did not know how to dance before the show. Work and dedication something the french are lacking for a long time .
35 hours a week of work and they are crying cause they don’t make any money . Well life is hard! So get up and do something. Be constructive with your criticism next time and not full of envy and jealousy.. Gilles his French , The Mom’s part Greek and Dad was Italian like me . WE LOVE HIM.
Franca

Allie-Rose on

Franca, your comment is very rude. None of us French people are whining or showing any jealousy here. When the other posters said “we don’t know him,” it’s not out of jealousy, it’s just a fact: as famous as he may be in the US, he is not in France. No one said there was anything wrong with it. Actually, if you read our posts, you’d see we all find it great he made it and decided to keep his traditions on that side of the Atlantic.
Now if you want to start an argument on other nationalities, then trust me us Europeans have A LOT to criticize Americans on that’s equally justified!!!

Ally on

Allie-Rose, Although I don’t agree with Franca’s wording (how it was said) I do agree that when I read the comments made by those who are French about Gilles not being known there in France and his son’s name being old had a negative connotation and seemed to degrade his accomplishments here in the US. I think that what Franca was trying to get across is that just because the French have never heard of him doesn’t make him less famous or a good actor. I don’t think Franca’s comment has anything to do with the US against France but to defend a guy who appears to be a great actor and a loving family man. A beautiful family!

Lyn on

Very well stated, Ally! I love the “Christmas magic” this family enjoys. From America, we wish all the posters wonderful memories on Epiphany or Three King’s Day!

Allie-Rose on

Ally – I’m sorry, but I still consider Franca’s post to be rude and aggressive. I re-read the posts and none of us French people said there was anything wrong about Gilles having made it in the US. It just so happened that the man in unknown in France, it’s just a fact not a reproach or jealousy.
As for the comments on his son’s name, I can understand them as, in France, the name George IS considered old-fashioned, as there are probably such names in English too. You know how name trends come and go. Georges has gone out of style a couple of generations ago ans has yet to be “trendy” again (I don’t like the word “trendy” but that’s the best one I could come up with right now).
So I think Franca’s rant about the French being envious, jealous, lazy and whiny was rude and uncalled for.

j.U.d.E. on

Well, I’m from Belgium and heard of him, when he was joining the cast of Brothers & Sisters. I don’t think Georges is that of an old-fashioned name.

Bugs! I agree with you! I was thinking the same – Gilles and his wife do look like they could be brother ans sister. I was trying to figure out who the children look like most, stoppend and went wow! wait a minute… lol.

Very handsome family!

Joyeux Noël! And I loooove the gallette des Rois!

Ally on

Allie-Rose you’re right most cultures do have names that are considered old fashioned. To be honest, I’d rather old fashioned than some of these new names people are naming their children, LOL!
I respect you opinion and like I said before, I don’t agree with Franca’s wording or approach. I trust that you can see my point of view that it doesn’t matter if he’s known there in France or not that determines his success and shouldn’t have even been a factor. There are Americans that are more popular in Europe that I’ve never heard of and that wouldn’t be the first thing I’d comment on. I guess it was Tyannah’s comment that was really negative. To say “Cute pic but too much unreal…”, where is the compliment in that? The only good thing she said was Juliana was a pretty name. I don’t care what nationality he is, I love learning about other cultures and I’m honored that he’s sharing his family and traditions.

Allie-Rose on

Ally – I respect your opinion. What bothered me most in Franca’s post was not just the wording, but also the tone employed. If her comment was directed at Tyannah or someone in particular, then I think she should have mentioned it instead of making it sound like all French people are negative.

Ally on

Allie-Rose, I agree! I don’t know who her comment was directed to because there were a few that said the same thing. I made reference to Tyannah’s comment because it was the first one I read and stood out the most to me as non-complimentary. I don’t like people grouping me with others just because we are the same race or nationality and the tone could have been nicer; that’s why we have to remember just like the website says that it’s okay to agree and disagree but be respectful of each other and our differences, experiences and perspectives. Like my mother always taught me, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all!” as well as, “Just because it crosses your mind doesn’t mean it has to part your lips!”; in this case written. :-)

Allie-Rose on

Ally – Exactly!! :D Merry Christmas :)

sabine on

“The french comment are like always full of “jalousie”” (Franca)

I think you are a bite rude with us. We have just said that we don’t know him here in France. This is not bad at all. It’s just a fact. He should be most famoust here because there are some french actors who are knowned in the USA and also famous here, like Olivier Martinez or said taghmaoui.
And this is not a way to say that if you’re not famous in France you’re not famous at all. We are not like that!

I don’t think french people are always full of “jalousie” as you said. Usually we are very proud (which it’s at the same time a quality and a fault). I could said that I’m proud of Gilles and his family to keep the tradition alive.

By the way I wish the best for everybody and try the Galette des Rois, it’s very good!

All Women Stalker on

These are beautiful photos. Love the depth of field.

-meream

Zebbie on

Thank you Gilles for the ‘galette des rois’ recipe. I made it today and it was fantastic.

dickie on

Sonya: I am American of Southern Euro descent. We call it Three Kings Day. You as an American who doesnt celebrate it may call it Day of the Epiphany, but it has ALWAYS been Three Kings Day to us.

Sonya on

dickie -whatever gave you the idea that I don’t celebrate Epiphany? Or that I’m American for that matter? And just because you call it that it does not mean that it’s the proper religious terminology.

And to correct your assumption, I do celebrate it (I’m Catholic) and no I’m not American (from UK) and yes my priest calls it Epiphany as does my church in official documents (which does not mean that colloquially it’s not know as Three Kings Day).

Marion on

I’m French too and I don’t understand why it is considered as rude to say that Georges sounds like an “old” name for us.
I’ve read quite the same comments from American people when Sarah Jessica Parker decided to name her daughter Marion. That’s how I discovered I have a Grand Ma name in the US ;)

elly on

Beautiful family!
Gilles is French but his origins are from Greece(his mother) and Italy (his father).
Catholics celebrate the three kings(magi) on the 6th of January but Orthodoxs on the same date,celebrate the baptism of Christ in Jordan river by St John the Baptist and this is called Theophania(=apparition of God) in greek and Epiphany or Theofany in english.
George is an all time classic and purely european name and at least we,Europeans but also other Christians, should honour our culture,so names should not be regarded as a matter of fashion!

Tilaal on

Elly,

Did you know Theophania is where the name ‘Tiffany’ comes from?

Marilyn on

What a nice article and such lovely photos!
I agree with Gilles, Christmas should be pure magic.

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