Mardi Gras Season 2016 will kickoff, as always, on January 6th. New Orleans and Brazil are well known destinations for those who want to experience one of the greatest parties on earth – Carnival. Although the season varies, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day will always fall on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter in accordance to the liturgical calendar.
To get this party started, those who celebrate will make, bake, or buy a King Cake on January 6th.
Here’s one from last year. Keyword…”one”…I make, buy, and eat them throughout the season!
And to show how big a deal these traditional cakes are, the King Cake Festival is an annual event to honor these delicious confections. The 3rd annual festival is January 31st. It’s a FREE family friendly event benefiting Ochsner Hospital Pediatric Departments. There’s something for everyone; music, games, food, and lots and lots of King Cakes to sample! A People’s Choice Award is given to the bakery with the most votes for the tastiest cake of the season.
Past winners included:
2014 Haydel’s Bakery
There will be lots of celebrations on January 6th too. Some will attend the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade. Joan of Arc is a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. January 6th is her birthday.
Some will attend the ball of The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival organization that had their first ball on January 6, 1870, a tradition that continues today. The female from their court who finds the bean- la fève – in the wooden King Cake is crowned Queen – La Reine.
The Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows will parade on the St. Charles Streetcar line the night of January 6th. That krewe is known as being the “dessert of Carnival”, a satirical and fun group. One of their mottos is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”
Click here to read my post from last year about the history of Louisiana Creole Carnival celebrations – Le Petit Noël (Twelfth Night or Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany or Kings’ Day) and Mardi Gras.
And you don’t have to be part of a high society, live in New Orleans or where King Cakes are sold to celebrate the kick off of Mardi Gras. You can make a king cake in your very own kitchen. Watch Alex the French Guy make a French version –La Galette des Rois, he’s adorable and funny. CookingAndCrafting demonstrates how to make a New Orleans King Cake from scratch. The recipe I put in The King Cake Baby is a very easy one because it’s made from frozen dough. I used it with a handful of adults and a cafeteria full of kids to make 50 King Cakes in a few hours that we sent to our troops in the Wounded Warriors Project at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
If you don’t have a plastic baby, use a bean or a coin (wrap the coin in foil for hygienic reasons) to hide. Just remember, before you take a bite, be sure to check for the baby or whatever is hidden inside!
The Northern Ohio SCBWI Annual Conference -THE MAGIC OF 13 – was truly magical. The sessions inspired. The speakers motivational. The inspiration to writers to continue telling stories abundant. And as always, meeting new people and making new friends – unforgettable. Here’s a recap:
Kudos to Heather Price, the Regional Adviser for Northern Ohio SCBWI. With her guidance the conference was quite a hit. Juliana Lee and I traveled together to the conference and had lunch with Lindsay Bonilla, founder of World of Difference, a theatre-in-education company.
Conferences are the perfect place to meet writers in person we befriend in our virtual worlds. Kathy Halsey shares the same digital space many of us kid-lit writers do. Also had a chance to catch up with a local Cincinnati SCBWI superstar award winning author Mary Kay Carson, a faculty member at the conference. I had to give her and the other members a shout out at the Publication Celebration for their mentorship which helped me get started in this crazy, creative business.
The keynote, delivered by Viking Senior Editor Kendra Levin was quite inspirational. She motivated the audience by her comparison of our journey as writers to a hero’s journey. Thanks for sharing, caring, and comparing Kendra! Agent & author Marie Lamba shared what it takes to make a manuscript picture book worthy. Can you tell she loves a good story?
Agent Viki Selvaggio treated us to some tips on how to add magic to our manuscripts. Each and every element has a purpose, know their roles and why they exist. Agent Jodell Sadler shared her knowledge of pacing in picture books. She gave us lots of picture books to use as mentor texts that are particularly good at using one or more of the pacing tools she shared.
Author Miranda Paul shared some ideas on revision, something every manuscript needs. Whether tweaking an idea, a pitch, or a manuscript at the sentence or word level, we must be our own editors first. Little, Brown Books Editor Nikki Garcia gave her insight during the critique of “first pages”. Conference participants submitted the first page of a manuscript for editor input. Thanks for your insight Nikki.
A highlight for a debut author like me was meeting author and poet Shutta Crum! Fortunately I was assigned the space right next to her at the book signing table. What a treat for me. And signing a copy of my book for someone thrilled to have it will never get old!
And if you think those who write for children are not HOT, we were on FIRE! Well, actually someone pulled the fire alarm on the 5th floor of the hotel so technically not a real fire, but we still had to evacuate to the lobby. Bet the agents and editors visiting from NY had no idea O-HI-O could be as exciting as New York City!
Finally, there were two conversations I recall that are too funny not to share. I spy a thread, do you?
Writer #1: Congratulations on your book. My son loves New Orleans. He still has the king cake baby he got in a cake.
Me: I still have my collection too! What grade is he in?
Writer #1: College, he’s twenty.
Me: Oh. (wondering if this was from a spring break trip)
Me: Who should I autograph the book to?
Writer #2: My son Alex. He loves everything New Orleans.
Me: Cool! How old is Alex?
Writer #2: Twenty-four
Me: (kid lit works for adults too)
Not exactly my intended audience for The King Cake Baby, but proves picture books are enjoyed by all.
Happy reading and writing!
Catch him if you can! #AmazonGiveaway! Enter here for a chance to win a copy of The King Cake Baby. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends September 21, 2015!
If you’ve ever had king cake, you know a tiny plastic baby belongs inside the cake. But what if the baby runs away before he’s hidden inside the cake?
The King Cake Baby is a tasty re-telling of the Gingerbread Man tale, told New Orleans style! The runaway baby is chased by an old Creole lady and an old Creole man, a praline lady in Jackson Square, and a waiter at Café du Monde. But can he outrun a clever baker?
Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos! Actually Louisianians would have said something like Feliz el 4 de Julio or Heureux le 4 éme Juillet. Thanks Google!
Language aside, the Spanish Colony of Louisiana under the leadership of Bernardo de Gálvez (photo below) joined forces with the British-Americans to fight for their independence against the British. Indigenous Native Louisianans fought alongside those of French, Spanish, African, German, Acadian, and Swiss descent. The rest as they say, is history. Why did Spanish Louisiana help British-America?
European wars profoundly affected the fledgling French colony. Spain supported the American Revolution because of their losses to Britain during the Seven Year’s War (1756–1763). On the same day France relinquished most of her empire east of the Mississippi to Britain at the end of the Seven Years’ War, she ceded all her possessions west of the Mississippi to Spain, her ally in the conflict. Spain lost all of her North American territories (Spanish Florida) to regain control of Cuba and became the new ruler of the Louisiana Colony. In order to recoup her losses and to protect what was left of her colonies in the Americas, Spain used both international and domestic policies to guard and develop her holdings. Internationally, Spain’s support of the American Revolution helped protect her borders from Britain, while on the domestic front Spain needed to develop a prosperous Louisiana colony.
Allowed to access supplies through the port of Havana in Cuba as well as the port in New Orleans during the revolution, Spanish Louisiana played a crucial role in American Independence.
You’re welcome America! Just sayin’!
International Dot Day is named for the story written by Peter H. Reynolds titled The Dot. The book is about a girl who does not believe she can draw but through the encouragement of her art teacher learns she is able to “make her mark.” Every September schools all around the world are encouraged to celebrate International Dot Day through activities that inspire and encourage creativity. The teacher in the book told the little girl, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”
My Celebri-Dot, inspired by my hometown of New Orleans is definitely known for the creative spirit found throughout the city. And deserves a WHO DOT! The design is dedicated to all the creatives who live there and to the people who had the courage to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. It’s been ten very long years.
Here are some tips of how to participate in International Dot Day:
New Orleans trivia quizzes are designed as a fun way learn about one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Rich in tradition and culture, New Orleans is known as the festival capital of the United States. The culture, customs, and many traditions celebrated throughout the year started long before US statehood which makes the city genuinely unique.
This first quiz tests your knowledge of Mardi Gras and that includes king cake, baby!
See my other posts about Mardi Gras and king cake and another about how to catch throws at a parade. Head over to Goodreads to take the New Orleans Trivia multiple choice quiz. For a heads up, the questions are below.
How’s your knowledge of New Orleans culture?
Bonne chance! Good luck!
1. What is the first day king cake is traditionally eaten in New Orleans?
2. What does the New Orleans king cake symbolize?
3. Other than a plastic baby, what else is known to be hidden in king cakes?
4. Mardi Gras is an official holiday in which of these states?
5. Who chose purple, green, and gold as the official colors of Mardi Gras?
6. What do the words Mardi Gras mean in English?
7. What happens when you find the plastic king cake baby inside the cake?
8. What New Orleans Carnival krewe uses a bean and “mock wooden” king cake to choose their queen?
9. At a new Orleans Mardi Gras parade, the following may be caught from floats.
10. Where can you go to sample the best variety of Louisiana king cakes?
The King Cake Baby picture book is filled with local lingo which includes French vocabulary. Here’s a handy guide if you want to learn more about the language and sound like a local too. Enjoy!
New Orleans: (noo OR-lunz, noo OR-lee-unz, noo AW-linz) a city in the state of Louisiana, former French and Spanish colony.
king cake baby: a small plastic replica of a baby hidden inside a king cake. People want to “get” the baby or find it in their piece of king cake.
king cake: an oval cake decorated in Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power).
Kings’ Day: celebrated every January 6th, the first day of the carnival season in Louisiana.
Creole (KREE-ohl) spelled Créole in French. Louisiana Creole is a culture and a language created by people in the colony when multiple old world cultures lived together in the new Louisiana territory during the French, then Spanish colonial periods and continued after the American purchase. Today, the culture is practiced and visible all over south Louisiana through statewide celebrations, use of Louisiana French, Louisiana Creole & Louisiana Spanish languages, architecture, food, music, traditions, festivals, and general joie de vivre.
ma chérie- (mah- SHAY-ree) French word, feminine, used in the English root for the word “cherish”. Means my dear or my darling.
French Quarter: the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans since the founding of the city in 1718. Locals refer to the area as the “Quarter”. The original name is Vieux Carré (VOO cuh-RAY or Vyoo cuh-RAY ) which is French for “old square”.
Mardi Gras: (MAH-dee-graw or MAW-dee-graw) French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season. The length of the Carnival season varies, but always ends the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.
French Quarter cottage: a small, single story creole style home.
mon ami: (mohn a-MEE) French, masculine, means “my friend’’ in English.
praline: (PRAH-leen), a creole candy made with sugar, butter, cream and pecans. A pralinière (prah-leen-YAIR) in French is a woman who sells pralines on the street. Not pronounced “pray-LEEN” in Louisiana.
How you doing dawlin’: (DAW-lyn) a local greeting; example of ”southern drawl” where vowels sounds are prolonged. Omission of the ”r” and final ”g” sounds is also common.
Jackson Square: originally named Place d’ Armes (plahs-DARM) during the French colonial period. The area, renamed Jackson Square after the Battle of New Orleans, showcases an equestrian statue of US President Andrew Jackson.
Come with me by my house: New Orleans local lingo. Means to stop in, not to literally pass by.
Café du Monde: (kah-FAY DOO-mawnd) famous café located in the French Quarter neighborhood known for making the beignet (BEN-yay), a deep-fried French doughnut or fritter.
Where y’at: (yuh-AT) New Orleans local lingo, a traditional greeting and contraction for “you at’’. Y’at is pronounced with 2 syllables.
C’est la vie: (SAY- la-vee) French expression often used in New Orleans, means “such is life” in English.
Creole Queen Riverboat: an authentic paddlewheel riverboat in New Orleans known for Mississippi River cruises, built to mimic the days of Mark Twain.
Yeah, you right: a statement of agreement. Sometimes spoken as one word – YEAH-you-right.
Bon appétit: (BAW na-PAY-tee) French saying, “good appetite’’, means enjoy your meal in English.
King cake, Mardi Gras, parades, krewes – all traditions unique to New Orleans and Louisiana culture here in the US.
Everyone in Louisiana knows what day it is! It’s Kings’ Day, January 6th, the first day of the Carnival Season!
When people learn I am from New Orleans, they often ask about our Carnival or Mardi Gras traditions. I always include a bit of history about king cake and the tiny plastic baby that is hidden inside. The idea for my upcoming debut picture book, The King Cake Baby, came to me while making a king cake. I couldn’t find a baby and panic ensued. If you don’t have a king cake baby to hide inside, the pastry is just a cinnamon roll!
And I was listening to New Orleans music. So first, here’s a song. Sing along!
Eh là bas! Eh là bas! [Hey over there! Hey over there!]
Eh là bas chérie! [Hey over there, dear.]
Komen ça va? [How’s it going?]
(New Orleans musician Don Vappie on banjo and vocal)
Read on if you’d like to learn more about our traditions. The history of our Carnival and Louisiana king cake practices stem from the periods of colonization as well as English tradition. Combining cake customs from the French and Spanish rulers created the foundation for this Louisiana Creole tradition celebrated on the last day of le petite noël (Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany). The beginning of Carnival is always on January 6th and is also known as Kings’ Day. King cakes are baked and eaten throughout this time, known as the pre-Lenten season. Carnival or “carne vale,” means “farewell to the flesh”. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, is the last day of Carnival. In 2015, Mardi Gras Day is February 17th. Although always a Tuesday, the date varies, therefore the length of the season does too. The number of days during Carnival depends on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. It’s the time between Twelfth Night (in New Orleans, that’s between January 6th and the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.) Actually, the date for Easter Sunday sets the length of the Mardi Gras season.
Carnival is celebrated all over the world. And cakes are made too. In France & Québec the cake is called La galette de rois, in Spain and places they colonized like Mexico, South America, Florida, and California the cake is called Rosca de Reyes or ring of kings, in Germany its Dreikonigskuchen, in Scotland, the Black Bun, in Portugal, Bola-Rei. And many more I did not mention. In Louisiana, king cake is a symbol associated with the spirit of Carnival.
Many are surprised to hear that Carnival was not always a mass public daytime celebration in New Orleans. The first Mardi Gras parades were organized in Mobile, Alabama! In 1837, when the people of New Orleans started publicly celebrating in the streets, they were so wild that the government almost banned these celebrations. Yikes! By 1856, the private club or ”krewe” named the Mistick Krewe of Comus from Mobile came to New Orleans to save Mardi Gras. They organized a festive and safe event with floats, masked members who paraded in the street wearing costumes, and hosted masquerade balls .
Credit for the merriment of Mardi Gras seen today in New Orleans goes to the Krewe of Rex dating back to 1872. When Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited New Orleans, the Krewe of Rex arranged a daytime parade. In 1875 Mardi Gras became a legal state holiday. Decade after decade the celebration grew. More krewes started, bands and throws like beads and doubloons were added to the parades. With the addition of larger krewes and celebrity participation Mardi Gras in New Orleans became an international event.
Louisiana “king cake”, known as kings’ cake or three kings cake in Europe and Latin America, takes its name from Catholic liturgical tradition commemorated on January 6th that celebrates the visit of the Wise Men or three kings to visit the Baby Jesus. The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival society from 1870 chose the “Lord of Misrule” as their king at their ball, following old English tradition. The following year they started the tradition of choosing a queen for his majesty on January 6th. Today that tradition continues, using a “mock” king cake, and the event is considered a kick-off to the Carnival season. King cake eventually became a symbol for the start of the Mardi Gras among locals who were not members of these grand societies. The Krewe of Rex chose the colors associated with Mardi Gras today; purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power also used to decorate king cakes. In the French tradition, originally a bean or la fève, was hidden inside a king cake. Early on Spain used figurines to represent the Baby Jesus. In Louisiana, pecans and even jewelry were used. However it wasn’t until the 1940’s, that a beloved New Orleans bakery, McKenzie’s, started using the plastic baby we see hidden in king cakes today. In Catholic tradition, the baby represents the Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the baby or whatever is hidden inside is supposed to bring the next king cake or host the next king cake party or could be “crowned” king or queen.
Retail stores love Christmas, florists love Valentine’s Day, chocolatiers love Easter, and Louisiana bakeries love the king cake season! By 1950, the public began buying lots of king cakes. Today, thousands of cakes are eaten and shipped around the world during the Louisiana Mardi Gras season.
And now New Orleans hosts its very own King Cake Festival! The second annual King Cake Festival scheduled for January 25, 2015 is sure to be fun!
Starting today, EAT. KING. CAKE. if you are in New Orleans, join the festival. Plan a trip to see a Mardi Gras parade. Just don’t forget the baby mon ami!
Happy New Year 2015! Bonne Année!
To everyone near and far, wishing you a very productive and prosperous year ahead. I am very excited the new year is finally here. And can’t wait to get started promoting my debut picture book, The King Cake Baby in February.
Until then, the baby extends his welcome to 2015 and has high expectations for the new year too.
What do the King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle have in common? They are both New Orleans icons. And about the same age too.
Every baby boomer who grew up in New Orleans visited Mr. Bingle in the Maison Blanche window then went inside the store to take a photo with Santa himself. Credit for the creation of this Christmas icon goes to Mr. Emile Alline who was the window-display manager at the store. Back in 1948, a French Quarter puppeteer named Edwin H.Isentrout was hired to promote the little snowman named Mr. Bingle and advertise the MB franchise. Between the storefront window display, TV commercials, and visits to other store locations, the image became a New Orleans icon.
We can thank Daniel Entringer, Sr. for popularizing the icon of the small plastic baby known as the king cake baby hidden inside king cakes.. He was a cheesemaker from Wisconsin who bought McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes from Henry McKenzie in 1932. At one time, McKenzie’s bakery was the most popular bakery in New Orleans offering sweets such as buttermilk drops, blackout cakes, petit fours, eclairs, and chocolate turtles to name a few, in addition to their famous king cakes. When a Carnival Krewe named the Twelfth Night Revelers asked Entringer to make king cakes for them, they supplied their own trinkets to hide inside the cake as custom dictated. However, according to the history told, a friend of Entringer found a plastic baby in a French Quarter shop back in the 1940’s and suggested he use it. The baker started using the plastic baby then and created the tradition that continues to this very day. A king cake without a baby hidden inside is simply a cinnamon roll!