For the last couple of years, I've done a little post about the Feast of the Epiphany and here I am again. A lot of people celebrate Christmas for various reasons (some because of their religious beliefs, some because it's tradition), but I don't hear a whole lot about that entire season of the church calendar.
The season begins with Advent, which starts 4 Sundays before Christmas. The "12 days of Christmas" actually come after December 25. In the older tradition, you would start counting at sunset on December 25 and therefore, the night of January 5 would be the Feast of the Epiphany. More commonly though, people count December 26 as the first day of Christmas and therefore January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany. The time (and specifically, the Sundays) between December 25 and January 6 is called Christmastide. Where Christmas day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Feast of the Epiphany is the celebration of when the Three Wise Men came to see Jesus and therefore revealed his birth to the world.
The time between the Feast of the Epiphany and the beginning of Lent is called the season of Epiphany. In the Southern US, this time period is celebrated as the Mardi Gras season, with the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday being the actual Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) day. In some other countries, this time is referred to as Carnival instead, and sometimes it only encompasses the 3 days before Ash Wednesday, not the entire season of Epiphany. Mardi Gras/Carnival is a time of feasting before the fasting that comes with Lent. It's part of Mardi Gras tradition to have a King Cake on the Feast of the Epiphany (this day is referred to as Three Kings Day in some areas).
Several years ago I found a recipe for King Cake and I've made my own for us to eat on January 6 each year since then. This year I will have Sierra and Sedona help and we'll make two...one for us and one for Josh to take to work to share (since King Cake tends to be a regional thing, I figure it might be something new for some of them). It's a fun, tasty tradition and a history/geography/religious studies lesson all rolled into one!
I use the recipe I found a while back and I like how it comes out. Just a tip, the recipe makes two cakes, so if you only want one, you need to half it. We usually eat one entire cake in one day though.