Feb 16, 2012

When John and I were in Louisiana we made King Cakes which are served on the Festival of the Epiphany. The Epiphany, or "Little Christmas", is observed on January 6th in many Christian churches. Since the 300's, the day has honored the meeting of the three wise men with the infant Jesus. King Cakes became part of the celebration to symbolize the finding of the baby Jesus. Traditionally King Cakes are oval to symbolize the unity of all Christians. The Mardi Gras Season in Lake Charles begins on "Twelfth Night" (January 6th) and ends on Fat Tuesday, which is the day before the Lenten season begins. This year Fat Tuesday falls on February 21. Anytime during this period is the perfect time to enjoy King Cakes – they are delicious, colorful and fun.

While we were in Lake Charles, Louisiana, we visited the Mardi Gras Museum. I liked the fact that it is housed in a building that was once a school. I like it when buildings take on a new life. Today the building is the Central School Arts & Humanities Center. The Mardi Gras Museum is just one of the organizations housed in the building. The museum claims to have the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes on display – they are fantastic. Besides the amazing costumes they have animated mannequins that tell the story of Mardi Gras and talking Mardi Gras chickens that are trying to escape being cooked up in a gumbo pot. There are various rooms set up that tell the story of baking King Cakes as well as costume making. Visitors can also climb aboard a Mardi Gras float, hear the cheering crowds and pretend that they are actually in a parade.

After touring the museum we joined a group to make – well decorate – King Cakes. The Delicious Donut & Bakery had everything ready. We inserted a little plastic baby in the cake and frosted the cakes with carnival colors: green, yellow, and purple. We added beads, a coin, and a mask in the tradition of the carnival. After a King Cake is cut and served, the guest whose slice contains the "baby" which we had hidden in the cake is then obligated to bring a King Cake to the next celebration. Our problem was how to get the cake home in our luggage! Then John had a great idea, “Since we will not be home for Fat Tuesday lets send the cakes to our family so they can enjoy them.” And we did. It seems that Delicious Donut & Bakery is well known and ships King Cakes to anyplace in the United States.

The Mardi Gras in Lake Charles which includes many events over many days is touted as being “family-friendly.” We were told, “You don’t have to “show” anything to get beads!” We have heard that Mardi Gras in New Orleans is much less family friendly but we have never been there for the party. However, we did attend Carnival in Rio de Janeiro a couple years ago. We had heard some scary stories about how dangerous Rio was during Carnival time. We bought tickets to the Sambodromo, the only place to see the Samba Parade. It was extremely safe, with access to the Sambodromo and also our seating area by pre-issued cards similar to credit cards. There was security everywhere. It was an amazing nonstop 12 hours of music and parades.