Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Get Out The King Cake - Mardi Gras Is Here!

Kaley Willis / youthjournalism.org

A popular Mardi Gras tradition is eating King Cake 

By Kaley Willis
SULPHUR, Louisiana, U.S.A. – It’s the beginning of a new year, and while that may mean resolutions and new beginnings for most, it means a two-month long party for those of us in Louisiana and other states along the Gulf Coast.
Mardi Gras is a celebration leading up to Fat Tuesday, the day when Cajuns can indulge in their favorite guilty pleasures one last time before the Christian season of Lent – and its custom of abstaining from life’s riches – starts the next day.
The Easter holiday, which falls on a different Sunday each year depending on the spring equinox, ends the season of Lent. So Easter determines when Lent begins, and also dictates the timing of the Mardi Gras season. This year, Fat Tuesday falls on March 4.
While the party begins on January 6th, or Kings Day, the real festivities do not fully transpire until the last two weeks before Fat Tuesday, when you’ll find a different parade every day.
Elaborate and exciting, Mardi Gras parades are standard in the south, however it is not as common to see them in the early weeks of Mardi Gras. In the beginning of the Mardi Gras season, many changes take place to make way for Fat Tuesday, the first being the widespread consumption of King Cake.
King Cake is quite possibly one of the most popular traditions of Mardi Gras, given how many people participate.
Kaley Willis / youthjournalism.org

A King Cake with the baby
on top, complete with Mardi
Gras beads.
Available in many different flavors, King Cake is similar to a large cinnamon roll, covered in green, purple, and gold icing and sprinkles, representing the official colors of Mardi Gras. The unique thing about King Cake is that each one contains a tiny plastic figurine of a baby, representative of the baby Jesus. The catch is, the person who gets the baby in their piece of cake must buy the next King Cake for everyone.
Although getting the baby may seem unlucky, it is actually a sign of good luck for the Mardi Gras season, and some people even believe that the person who bites into the plastic baby will become pregnant.

Kaley Willis / youthjournalism.org

A table covered with Mardi Gras decor includes a tree topped with a Mardi Gras mask. Many families leave their Christmas tree up during Mardi Gras and decorate it with purple, green and gold beads.
Another holiday tradition is participating in a Krewe. A Krewe is an organization that hosts Mardi Gras balls, parades, and many community service projects throughout the year.
The balls that Krewes host are another standard Mardi Gras festivity. Many balls are invitation only and feature Mardi Gras royalty, a chosen panel of people who represent the Krewe for that season.
While costumes are common for many people participating in events, Krewe royalty don the most beautiful and elaborate costumes of anyone.
While it is not common to see a Louisianan in a lavish, jeweled costume in a parade eating a King Cake on many days of the year, it is an everyday occurrence during Mardi Gras, the one last hurrah before Lent.
Kaley Willis / youthjournalism.org

Mardi Gras King and Queen costumes from the Krewe de la Famille are on display at Louisiana's Lake Charles Visitor's Bureau.

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