The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or “Twelfth Night,” also known to Christians as the “Epiphany” (meaning “to show”) as Jesus first showed himself to the three Wisemen on this day. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake.
The king cake is usually oval-shaped, a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry decorated in royal colors of PURPLE which signifies “Justice,” GREEN for “Faith,” and GOLD for “Power.” These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on the Epiphany. In the past, such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.
The history of Mardi Gras dates back to the 1730’s after the French established the city of New Orleans. Mardi Gras back then did not have the floats, marching bands, and throws as they do now. Mardi Gras starts on January 6 – or Twelfth Night, as it occurs 12 days after Christmas and goes through to Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras. The date of Mardi Gras changes from year to year based on when Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) occurs.