I can’t believe today is Mardi Gras and that another year has gone by. I feel like time is moving so quickly and I just want to slow time down so I can make sure I’m enjoying every minute.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in New Orleans, the de facto center of Mardi Gras in North America. And it’s not a coincidence that the third book in the Amazon bestselling Deadly Force series, IN SEARCH OF TRUTH, takes place partially in New Orleans, including a sexy scene in a romantic hidden-away restaurant, a hunt through the French Quarter, and a chase through Lafayette Cemetery #1.

But besides crazy partying down in New Orleans, what is Mardi Gras? In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” Technically, Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the day before the Christian season of Lent begins. Mardi Gras Day always falls 46 days before Easter which means it can occur on any Tuesday from February 3rd to March 9th. Mardi Gras Day is also a transition day, dividing Church time between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Easter season.

To add to the confusion, Mardi Gras isn’t just a day. It’s a season that begins on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night since it’s the twelfth night after Christmas. January 6th is also the Epiphany, the night that Jesus showed himself to the three wise men. While many people eat King Cake only on Mardi Gras Day, others start eating King Cake on January 6th, to celebrate the Epiphany, and eat it through the entire season.

Rumors say that the King Cake tradition appeared in New Orleans, a traditionally Catholic city, in 1870. It’s an oval-shaped cake that tastes more like a French pastry filled with cinnamon and pecans. Some people add in dried fruit like raisins or currants, and the oval shape represents the unity of faiths. The cake is decorated with a white frosting and three different colors of sprinkles. These three colors are known as the Royal Colors:

Purple signifies Justice. Green signifies Faith. Gold signifies Power.

These colors represent the colors in a royal jeweled crown honoring the Three Wise Men who came to the Christ Child on Epiphany. To symbolize this event, a small plastic baby (or a piece of orange or a walnut) is baked into the King Cake. Although you want to make sure it’s not so small it could be swallowed or too large to break teeth. When the King Cake is served, everyone looks to see if they received the baby. The one who does is named “King” for a day. That King is then required to host next year’s party and provide the King Cake.

Whether you eat your King Cake all winter long, or just on Mardi Gras Day, you need to prepare ahead of time if you want to make your own. As a yeast bread, you need time to proof the yeast and let the dough rise–multiple times. Even you don’t celebrate these holidays, it’s worth the time and effort to make this French delicacy. And when you serve it with your favorite hot coffee, you can laissez les bon temps rouler!

(This is an edited repost from the archives.)

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