|A stack of sadly dry vegan king cakes|
at Whole Foods Broad Street
An interesting note on king cake: we're not the only people who eat it! January 6th is King's Day because it is twelve days after the birth of the baby Jesus (or the date on which we've chosen to celebrate his birth, anyway). Twelve days is how long it reportedly took the "three kings" or "three wise men," Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar, to arrive in Jeruselem following the bright star that appeared at the birth of the Christ. Their arrival, then, is king's day, also known as the Epiphany which means "manifestation of a divine being." Because the significance of the celebration springs from Catholic traditions, it's unsurprising that other cities of strong Catholic culture also celebrate the day. And with Catholics, a celebration ALWAYS means food.
|Rosca de Reyes - picture from http://instagram.com/andivert/|
The rosca does contain a baby, and whoever gets it must buy tamales for people on February 2nd, a day of celebration called Candlemas. The day marks the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox; we celebrate it as Groundhog's Day. It was also the first day of the year in the Aztec calendar. The tamales specifically are nod to traditions of pre-Columbian days and are an offering to Aztec gods for a good harvest. Depending on the social circle, the baby recipient might have a party with the same people the cake was cut with on Candlemas and serve tamales.
Regardless of what religion you adhere to or whether you believe these bits of history and folklore, what can't be denied is that king cakes have an interesting and storied history and are a pleasure to eat!