Earlier this week, there was a ring at door, and upon answering it the neighbor put a large cake box into my hands. He had no explanation whatsoever–but I certainly didn’t reject the cake!
Upon opening it, we found a “King Cake,” mailed from Louisianna (www.kingcakes.com), in celebration of Mardi Gras. I immediately recognized the cake as being similar to the “Rosca de Reyes” (King’s Cake) that is eaten for the “El Dia de Reyes” (Three Kings Day) holiday in Mexico! I had to look up the comparisons:
The King Cake Tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870.
Mardis Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th, which is traditionally known to Catholics as the first day Jesus showed himself into the world. The oval-shaped cake (which is more like a pastry than a cake) is supposed to resemble a jewelry crown honoring the Wise Men who visited Christ on this special day (aka the “Epiphany”). As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside of each King Cake. If your served piece happens to contain this little baby, you are bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake. I sincerely thought Mardi Gras was just a random reason to have a party (and for most, it arguably is), and was surprised to learn that it has basically the same history as the Three Kings Holiday.
In Mexico, they celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6th for the same reason (commemorating the Wise Men visiting Jesus and delivering gifts). This is actually a more significant holiday than Christmas, and it is the traditional date when people exchange gifts (What? No Santa in this Holiday! I LOVE Mexico! I guess it is just one more reason we will fit in just fine…).
On Three Kings Day, Mexicans have a dinner of traditional corn tamales (can we say YES!!?), and if your cut of the Kings Cake has the miniature plastic baby, this obligates you to host your own party on “Dia de la Candelaria” (Candlesmas Day) on February 2nd, and also serve Tamales (YES, YES, YES!!).
The Yummy cake we devoured:
And lucky for us, the box included Mardi Gras apparel, which Ella & Maiya had a lot of fun with!
So, while my opinion of Mardi Gras as it is commonly celebrated has not changed, at least I have a better understanding of what it is SUPPOSED to symbolize (much like Christmas is SUPPOSED to be about the birth of Christ, but is celebrated as a season of parties, Santa and overindulgence).
Thanks to the neighbor’s generous donation to this household, we DID overindulge for this holiday, and added to my growing belly with some delicious cake!