Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Baby Jesus Cake.

My sister and her family are Yankees.

Ok, not really. They live in the northern part of Alabama. And in all fairness, they're transplants. But compared to the Biloxi, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge areas, it's kind of a stretch.

One of the more significant differences between here and there is the lack of Mardi Gras celebration "up north."

While our conservative Southern Baptist family is Protestant to the T, we still make room in our hearts, religions and tummies for king cake each year, so it was pretty important to us to introduce my nephew to king cake as early as possible.

Caleb is now 7, so I guess it was 4 or so years ago when he had a friend over during the Mardi Gras season after a king cake from home had arrived. It was time for a snack, and Caleb excitedly asked Will, "You wanna piece of baby Jesus cake?"

Caleb's friend reacted the way any Yankee -- ahem, I mean non-coastal person -- would, and firmly said no.

Who wants a piece of cake that sounds like it's made from the baby Jesus? No thank you!

However, Caleb's little-boy-terminology makes me think each time I remember it.

King cakes' inclusion of the plastic baby representing Jesus isn't just random; it's symbolic. While the whole point of Mardi Gras has been wildly exaggerated into a Bourbon Street perspective by the general public, its roots stem from the devout reverence for the many sacrifices that Jesus made for us.

So tasting this delectable pastry is more than just fattening up one particular Tuesday (and maybe every day before then, depending on how many delightful king cakes you're exposed to). Eating king cake and being reminded of the baby Jesus -- sometimes painfully in the tooth area -- are all part of what really is logical about Mardi Gras. We enjoy, we indulge, we celebrate life and all its gifts, and then we take some time to somberly appreciate those gifts, minus the indulgences.

But even still, if I were a Yankee (or something like that), and someone offered me a piece of "baby Jesus cake," especially when I was in pre-school, I probably wouldn't take 'em up on it, either. :-)

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