King Cakes and Beads
I bought a King Cake yesterday in honor of upcoming Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras. My two children love them. A King Cake is like a cinnamon roll with creme cheese filling and icing with purple, green, and golden yellow sprinkles. A King Cake is rich and delicious.
The king cake was originally a French concoction, originating around the 12th century. Early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men (royal colors, purple, gold, green and their names, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) twelve days after Christmas calling it the Feast of the Epiphany, or King's Day.
The baking of the cake was the main part of the celebration. The cake was baked in a circle to signify the circular route the used by the Kings to get to the baby Messiah and to confuse King Herod whom as the story goes was trying to find Jesus and kill the Messiah.
In the early days a bean, a coin or a pea was hidden inside the cake. Whoever found the hidden object in their piece was declared King for the day, or was said to have good luck for the coming year.
Today in Louisiana the Feast of Epiphany or Twelfth Night signifies the beginning of the Carnival Season, which ends on Mardi Gras day. The beans, coins, and peas have been replaced by plastic babies to signify the Christ Child. The person who gets the baby is supposed to host the next King Cake Party.
You can buy beaded necklaces all over New Orleans. They are thrown from the parade floats during Mardi Gras and just about any time from balconies on Bourbon Street.
Legend has it sometime in the 1840s colorful glass beads and sugar coated almonds were tossed into the crowds as a version of an English Renaissance era custom. A type of promenade, the local aristocracy of a town would parade down the main street, throwing the beads and almonds to the poor people of the town.
The New Orleans custom started to mock the royal custom. The peasants dressed up as aristocrats and paraded through the streets of town. Apparently the beads don't really hold much significance today except for the colors. Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. The beads are thrown from the Mardi Gras parade floats by members of the krewes. The beads are said to signify good luck.
Apparently if you are in New Orleans in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras you can get some beads if you show some skin (mainly bare breasts). I wouldn't know anything about that. My Husband went to Mardi Gras with two of his buddies from Canada about 12 years ago. He's never had the desire to go back for Mardi Gras.
My son came home from school today (Shrove Tuesday) with a set of green beads. He said they were from his teacher. He won't let me have them to wear and won't tell me why.
Copyright © 2010 Tammy Lochmann
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