History of Mardi Gras
As its French name implies, the tradition goes back to the city's settlement by French immigrants. Early explorers celebrated it on the banks of the Mississippi River. Throughout the years, Orleanians have added to the celebration by establishing krewes (organizations) which host parades and balls.
The official colors for Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. These colors where chosen in 1872 by the King of Carnival, Rex. He chose these colors to stand for the following:
Purple - represents justice
The Mardi Gras season begins with Three Kings Day. Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. It is often viewed as the last day of the Christmas season (the end of the 12 days of Christmas). Also known as The Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes) is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. According to the Biblical story, the Three Kings - named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar - presented the Baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Traditionally in Mexico, Three Kings Day was the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas day. Just as it is common for children to leave cookies for Santa in the U.S., in some regions of Mexico, it was customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of January 5, often filling them with hay for the camels, in hopes that the Three Kings would be generous. Mexican children would awake on January 6 to find their shoes filled with toys and gifts.
Also traditional in Mexico is for families to gather together and share the Rosca de Reyes (King's Cake). The Rosca de Reyes is a crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with pieces of orange and lime. It may be filled with nuts, figs, and cherries. Hot chocolate is traditionally served with the Rosca de Reyes.
One of the most popular customs is still the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings..."A King's Cake". Tradition has now evolved through time to obligate the person who receives the doll (inside every King Cake) to continue the festivities by hosting another king cake party.
The King Cake is made with a rich Danish dough, baked and covered with a poured sugar topping and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras-colored sugars. The end result is a delicious and festive cake in traditional Rex colors: Purple, Green and Gold.
Here is a recipe to make one yourself!
King Cake Recipe
1/2 c Water; warm (105-115 degrees)
Soften yeast in water. Combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, salt and lemon rind in
a large bowl. Make a well in center. Add yeast mixture, milk, eggs, egg
yolks and combine completely. Beat in butter until dough forms a ball.
Place on floured board; incorporate more flour if necessary. Knead until
smooth and elastic. Stir dough in well buttered bowl and turn so all
surfaces are buttered. Cover with a towel and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until
doubled in bulk. Brush baking sheet in butter. Punch down on lightly
floured board. Knead, then pat into a 14" cylinder. Place on baking sheet
and form into a large ring. Press trinket into dough so that it is hidden.
Set aside, covered with a towel, to rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Before baking,
brush top with the egg milk mixture. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven
for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Beat icing
ingredients until smooth. Spread over top of cake, letting drip down sides.
Immediately sprinkle sugars over icing in 2" wide strips of purple, green
and yellow stripes.
Have a Great MARDI GRAS Celebration!
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