For a crash course on Mardi Gras, it goes a little something like this: This Christian tradition closes the season of Epiphany that begins Jan. 6th, aka "Twelfth Night" -- 12 days past Christmas. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is March 4th this year. That's the day before Ash Wednesday (which is when Lent begins) and when you'll notice your Catholic coworkers walking around with schmutz on their foreheads.
- What baby wouldn't be happy playing in colored sugar?
Religious narrative has it that 12 days after Christmas, after all the LEGO kits and Hello Kitty-themed presents were unwrapped, the gift-bearing Magi finally got around to visiting the baby Jesus. This famous drop-in has been celebrated for centuries, with different cultures putting their own spin on the ritual.
In New Orleans a big part of that tradition is to bake or buy a brioche-like pastry in honor of the three kings, hence the King Cake. The cake's oval shape represents unity of faiths and is either iced or sprinkled with granulated sugar in the Mardi Gras colors: green (for faith), purple (for justice) and gold (for power).
But the piece de resistance is the tiny plastic naked-as-a-jaybird baby representing Jesus that's hidden inside. The cake is sliced and served, and then the symbolic search for His holy infantness begins. It's believed the person who finds Him (without cracking a crown or choking) will be blessed with good luck. He or she is then charged with buying next year's King Cake.
And for an especially sweet treat, turn up the volume and click on the video below of punk band Gar Gar's musical tribute to the little man of the hour, King Cake Baby, aka KCB. In fact, King Cake Baby Productions boasts a dozen videos featuring the famous pastry trinket taking in everything from a crawfish boil and Bourbon Street festivities to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Or follow King Cake Baby like more than 7,000 of his fans on Facebook. Why? Because as it says: He's plastic and fantastic. And naked.
The front-page image for this story came thanks to Circle City Sweets.