Friday, January 6, 2017
A fine tradition
January 6th is Twelfth Night, Epiphany; the date the Three Kings supposedly visited the Holy Family and the Christ child. It is celebrated in the Catholic tradition, within which the city of New Orleans is deeply steeped.
What Twelfth Night really means here is the start of the carnival, or Mardi Gras, season. The first parade and celebratory events of the season take place on this night. There is the Joan of Arc Parade*, which celebrate the birthday of the martyred girl saint - the 6th of January being her birthday. But that tradition, begun in 2008 is much less venerable than the heralding of the arrival of Mardi Gras season by the Phunny Phorty Phellows, a costumed and masked krewe that have been riding the St. Charles streetcar on this night, a tradition of celebration that goes back to 1878.
There's also a new krewe on the block - the Société Des Champs Elysée, who ride the brand spanking new Rampart Street streetcar line in a similar fashion to the Phellows.
It's all rolling tonight, though our weather is cold and raining, with thunderstorms and wind.
One of the traditions of Twelfth Night in New Orleans is the King Cake, which is a special pastry baked to celebrate the night. Traditionally, a bean is baked into the cake. Traditionally, whoever finds the bean is crowned king or queen of the night. However, in modern times, the bean has been substituted by a plastic baby doll, and whoever finds it is supposed to buy next year's cake!
Vaughan's Lounge is throwing a Twelfth Night Party tonight, and in preparation, some of the organizers brought several boxes of King Cake into the bar this afternoon, baked by a new bakery that has just opened here in the Bywater. The cake was sliced and offered for the day-drinkers to sample.
Several years back, I purchased a Rosca de Reyes cake from a little Oaxacan bakery in Santa Monica, on the west side of Los Angeles. This cake is part of a similar tradition in the culture of southern Mexico. Surprisingly, the first slice I cut from it held the baby!
Tonight, as I ate my slice of the delicious egg-based yeast pastry filled with chantilly cream, I bit down on something solid. Guess what? It was the baby!
Guess I'll have to bring a King Cake to Vaughan's next year.
*Latest update, the Joan of Arc Parade has been rescheduled to January 7 this year due to weather.