January 6th marks the 12th night of Christmas, celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, the start of the carnival season!
Some celebrate 12th night on the 5th, and there's actually lots of debate a confusion about the exact date of 12th night. Do you count Christmas? Do you count "days" or "nights". In the Krewe of Olympus we follow the medieval custom of starting each day at sunset ('cause you get to start drinking a whole day earlier!), so we always celebrate on January 6th, and party through until Mardi Gras.
12th night is usually celebrated with a King Cake, and the modern version has a little plastic baby hidden in one of the slices. The person who recieves the slice with the baby is thought to have good fortune for the rest of the year. They also have to throw the next king cake party!
BTW, the Christmas Wreath you hang on your front door is a representation of the wreath-shaped King Cake!
The length of the Carnival Season varies from year to year, depending upon the Sunday of Easter. The date for Easter is determined by a complicated algorithm involving "Ecclesiastical Full Moons" and all sorts of giberrish Miss G couldn't possible follow, so she just looks on a calendar! From Easter Sunday, one can count back 40 days to Ash Wednesday, and one more day to Mardi Gras!
It's kind of funny that the position of Mardi Gras on the calendar is always such a topic of conversation during carnival! You will hear people all over Louisiana commenting: "Mardi Gras is so EARLY this year!", or "Mardi Gras is so LATE- I hope it's not hot!"
This year Mardi Gras is on February 16th, which is a little early. Most often it falls at the end of February, around Boy G's birthday, and it can fall well into March some years. On the 16th, it's likely to be quite cold out, and the French Quarter's riverfront location makes it quite windy, so this could be a very chilly year.
Miss G hasn't made the trip to NOLA for Mardi Gras in several years, and she's thinking this year might just be the one to return to her roots, which, contrary to popular belief, ARE red! Anyone want to meet up in NOLA?