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Gilles Marini

THREE KINGS DAY

The Brothers and Sisters star imports a French tradition to Hollywood

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. But even though he's lived in Los Angeles for a decade, Marini—who waltzed his way to second place on Dancing with the Stars and currently stars on Brothers and Sisters—makes it a point to inject a taste of France into his family's holidays by celebrating Three Kings Day on Jan. 6. To commemorate the day the three wise men visited baby Jesus, Carole, who is also French, bakes an almond-flavored confection called a gallette des rois (kings cake) with a special surprise. "Inside the cake is a little toy called a fève [lucky charm]. It's usually a porcelain Christmas figurine or a tiny animal," explains Marini. "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 that they don't break a tooth!"

Though Marini, 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 Dec. 25 and Christmas Eve dinner involves turkey as well as foie gras, salmon and oysters. Santa also goes by the name of 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," Marini says. "I want to teach my kids that Christmas is pure magic."

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