All over the world, people gather for festive twelfth
Twelfth Night is when the coming of the wise men
bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated.
This celebration is called Ephipany, Little
Christmas, or the Twelfth Night. One of the most
popular customs in this celebration of giving gifts is the
baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings -
a King's Cake.
Hidden inside the cake is either a bean or plastic baby.
The tiny plastic baby represents the Christ Child.
The person receiving it must portray one of the kings.
It was originally served only on January 6th (Twelfth
Night), but is now celebrated here starting on the
twelfth night after Christmas and continues through Mardi Gras,
the day before Ash Wednesday (when the Lenten season begins)
which is throughout the entire carnival season.
It is said that the lucky person who gets the baby will
have good fortune for the year. The recipient then
continues the festivities by having another party or
bringing another cake. In the U.S., cakes are brought
to offices, school, meetings and parties, and
the person finding the baby in their piece must bring a
king cake the next day.
The first cakes were a simple ring of dough with little
decoration. The New Orleans-style cake is brightly
decorated with Mardi Gras colored sugars and icing and
pieces of fruit with cinnamon inside, pecans,
cream cheese, or any assortment of fruit fillings.