La Rosca de Reyes/King Cake (Kevin Riley)

In Mexican tradition, when Epiphany (or Día de los Reyes) is celebrated, twelve days after Christmas, it is usually celebrated with the “king cake.” It is a ring-shaped cake that contains variously colored fruit candies. It is in the shape of a ring to symbolize the Wise Men’s search for the King of the Jews. It also contains a specific surprise that makes it stand out from other normal traditional desserts. Somewhere inside the cake, there is a small figurine (or multiple figurines) that symbolizes a newborn Jesus, which is another part of the symbolism of the Wise Men’s search. Whoever gets a slice of the cake with a figurine inside must bring or make the food (usually tamales) for the next family gathering, which is most likely to happen on February 2nd, Día de la Candelaria. Whoever does not have the figurine inside gets to enjoy the gathering, and they do not have to make or bring any food. The king cake also has significance in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season. In New Orleans, a king cake can be found in many bakeries usually from early January, usually at the start of Carnival, January 6th. In this tradition, the king cake is made out of coffee cake and cinnamon, and then topped with cream cheese as opposed to Mexican tradition in which it is made out of sweet bread and candied fruits. The New Orleans version is most usually frosted in yellow, green, and purple which are the colors of Mardi Gras. Both traditions share the idea of the figurine. Getting the slice with the figurine is still seen as good luck, despite having to be the one to throw the next party and/or make the food.

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