I had heard of King Cakes in association with Mardi Gras but I had never heard of a King Cake on Epiphany. That all changed on January 6, 1996. Bill and I had just met a few months prior but were already deeply in love and were in Pittsburgh. It truly was the worst of times. His mother, a young widow, was hospitalized in Pittsburgh and we didn’t know from day to day if she would survive. We were working as full-time VISTA volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee. We were paid $580 per month for a full-time job (the idea was to live among the poor) to improve the lives of poor communities in America. In a political move, Newt Gingrich and his party had shutdown the government over a budget squabble. We were told that it was “illegal” as government employees to return to work. We went to Pittsburgh to wait out the shutdown and to figure out how to deal with the news that his mother would not be able to continue living in her home.
Pittsburgh was cold, gray and snowy. The situation was grim. We had just found out that the budget shutdown had been resolved but it soon became clear that we would both need to leave our jobs, move to Pittsburgh and become full-time caregivers to his mom until she could move to a facility that had skilled nursing available. It was an extraordinarily stressful day.
Then we spotted the King Cake in the foyer of the house just before 10pm upon returning from the hospital. Beloved master baker Sue, who lived down the street and understood the seriousness of the situation, had left an exquisite chiffon cake with a coin baked into it and a simple white paper crown for us. As the tradition goes, you each cut a piece and if you find the coin in your piece you get to wear the crown and be the king or queen for the rest of the day. Bill found the coin and I quipped, “It’s 10pm. Your reign will be short indeed.” We were so grateful for that kind gesture. It was the highlight of the day by a landslide.
I have baked a cake with a coin in it every January 6th since that night to remind me that no matter how bad the day has been, celebrating the Epiphany and looking for a coin in a cake always makes life a little more fun.
Good morning Weeks, I stumbled upon your blog yesterday…not even sure how I got linked to it…as soon as I read a post, I knew it was you even before I confirmed the author (because of knowing your unique name and frequently hearing you talk of Bill). I’ve had the privilege of seeing you speak several times in Madison, WI. Your evident way of appreciating life and those around you is inspiring. Your posts are going to be a great support to me as I learn to “live today” and cherish little moments without letting them slip by. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself! Wendy
Thanks for the kind words Wendy. This blog is my way of committing to doing exactly what you describe: focus on the positive things so they don’t slip by. I hope they will be helpful or amusing to you as well. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Loved reading this.
I also bake a similar cake on this day – but, for me it is a tradition of Serbian Orthodox Christmas. Serbian church is among very few that kept the OLD calendar (only for religious purposes, people in Serbia use the same calendar as everyone), and therefore everything is two weeks delayed. So today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas. My Nana always baked a special, rich bread in which she would put the coin. Next day, over the Christmas dinner everyone holds the cake with one hand and we all break off the piece in the same time – who finds the coin is simply going to have a bit more luck that year! I miss my Nana a lot, she was a simple but very strong and sharp lady with endless love for all of us.
Even though I am in US now and many new traditions were born, this old one we keep and after all the holiday excitements are over (shopping, making, wrapping, gifts abound before and on Dec. 25th, New Years party etc.), we gather on January 7th, just us, family and have a great dinner and break the cake together.
Like you, it reminds me of everlasting love and kindness my Nana always had for us, no matter how hard her life has been.
What a lovely story Marija. Thanks for sharing it. I think much of what makes our country wonderful is the diversity of traditions brought from people of a variety of cultures and traditions. I hope you will hold onto your family’s traditions for future generations! Thanks for stopping by.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging
on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
It’s always helpful to read content from other authors and practice something
from other sites.
At this time I am going to do my breakfast, when having my breakfast coming again to
read further news.