Little Bit of Carnival History

King’s Day or 12th Night officially begins the marathon that is known as New Orleans Mardi Gras.  Starting on January 6th, you can wish Mardi Gras salutations, don colors of purple, green and gold and indulge in the savory treat known as king cake!    

In the Catholic religion, January 6th is referenced as the Epiphany or Twelfth Night (appropriately named as it falls twelve days after Christmas) or King’s Day.  It marks the moment in the Bible that the three kings, having traveled over field and fountain, moor and mountain, arrived in Bethlehem to behold the baby Jesus.  Catholics consider the Epiphany as the last day of the Christmas holiday. 

Traditionally King’s Day – or as it as more commonly called 12th Night – is a time of feasting.   In order to celebrate the holiday in 1870, one of the first Mardi Gras clubs, who called themselves the Twelfth Night Revelers, decided to have a parade and party.  At this event, king cake was served with a single bean placed inside and whichever lady got the bean would be crowned queen of the Revelers.  When having a slice king cake in the current day, the bean has been replaced by a plastic baby.  Now, instead of being selected as Mardi Gras royalty, if your slice contains the baby, you will be requested to provide a king cake at the next gathering. 

January 6th is also noteworthy in New Orleans as the birthday of the patron saint, Joan of Arc.  The15th century young girl from Orleans, France was infamously burned at the stake.  A gold statue of Joan of Arc – a gift from her hometown to the city of New Orleans – can be found in the French Quarter on Decatur.  Joan of Arc’s birthday is commemorated with a parade throughout the French Quarter and is even know to pass out books of matches. 

 

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