In the rest of the world, the Holidays end Jan. 1. Here in Louisiana, we move into Mardi Gras and King Cake season with all of its cinnamon sugary (or pecan praline or strawberry-cream cheese) goodness.
For those of you who are new to the area or only know that King Cakes involve a baby and a promise of more parties, there is some religious signifiance. According to various Internet sources here and here, the tradition started in 12th century France with a cake made for Epiphany, the Jan. 6 religious holiday that marks the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus.
French settlers brought the tradition to Louisiana where it became part of the Carnival season. The Tweltfhth Night Revelers had the first King Cake party in 1870, where the woman receiving the bean in the cake became queen of the ball.
The oval shape resembles the route that the magi took to avoid Herod on their way back to the east. and cake is usually covered with colored sugar: Purple for justice; green for faith and gold for power. The plastic baby inserted in the cake represents the Christ Child and people hunt for it not unlike the three magi searched for Jesus.