Steeped in tradition > Twelfth Night kicks off Carnival

When the Krewe of Rio celebrates Twelfth Night on Saturday, they will continue a relatively new tradition in Lafayette, but also one that is rooted in the liturgical calendar of the church.

The Carnival season begins January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. It is the first day of a season of celebration that leads to the final fling on Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

January 6 also is known as Twelfth Night, because it is the last of the 12 days of Christmas. It’s known as Three Kings’ Day because it is celebrated as the day that the Magi brought gifts to the infant Jesus. It’s known as Little Christmas because it was the date that Christmas was celebrated until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

In Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve, which we now celebrate as Halloween. A King or Lord of Misrule was appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and the Twelfth Night was the end of his reign.

Janice LeBlanc, pubilcidad (Portuguese for publicist) for the new Lafayette krewe, said that it was partially by happenstance that the Krewe of Rio held its first ball on the Twelfth Night weekend last year, but now it has deliberately decided to officially open the local season.

“We thought we’d establish a tradition and hold our ball on the Twelfth Night weekend each year,” she said. “It may not always be on Twelfth Night itself, but we plan for it to be on that weekend.”

The krewe bases its theme on the annual celebration in Rio de Janiero, probably the earliest Carnival celebration in the New World. There are also well known season-long Carnival celebrations in Europe. The Louisiana celebration combines elements of both.

This year, the Rio Ball moves to the Convention Center next to the Cajundome, LeBlanc said. “Spotlights and the sounds of the Amazon will accompany an indoor Parada of Rio’s Capita (Captain), Rei e Rainha (King and Queen) and Corte Real (Royal Court),” she said.

Taste of tradition > King cakes are served beginning on the feast of the Epiphany and then throughout the Carnival season. In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found it was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, bakers put a small baby, representing Jesus, in the cake. The recipient is expected to host the next king cake party.