USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Baby Jesus’

King Cake

King Cake

            “We in Louisiana have a big celebration right before lent which we call Mardi Gras. A big part of the celebration is to eat king cake. The king cake is in the shape of a crown and it has a little plastic baby which essentially represents baby Jesus. The cool thing about it is that back in school, if you got the baby Jesus, you were celebrity for the day. In lunch everyone would hover around you. Back at home though, who ever got the baby Jesus, was in charge of bringing the next king cake, but it also mean that they would gain good luck… I don’t really know how this originated I just remember that we celebrated this all the time back at home. Everyone in the city celebrated this, in schools, at home, and even on the streets. I just know that I grew up with this tradition and that’s why I had king cake when Mardi Gras was happening back at home. I guess I’ve just grown accustomed to it.”

My informant was born and raised in Louisiana, New Orleans. She recently moved to Los Angeles, California to attend USC. Therefore, since tis move was fairly recent, she still shows signs of high attachment to her former place of birth. Most of the traditions she is accustomed to have not necessarily been directly taught, but more so been a part of her daily life that she considers them as something normal in an everyday situation. Furthermore, she does not really know about the exact root of the traditions she’s been brought up onto, all she knows is that they are there, they have been there for quite some time now and they will continue to be practiced.

I found this tradition quite interesting especially when analyzing it with my own recollections. This is because my culture also practices this tradition but during different times. In other words, the same king cake used in Louisiana, is also used in Mexico, except it’s called a rosca; in Louisiana, this is celebrated right before lent and in Mexico, this is celebrated in the first week of January. The concept is all the same; there are a couple of plastic babies put into the bread which represent baby Jesus, and in both traditions, whoever gets the piece of bread with the baby Jesus is in charge of bringing then next bread to the gathering. Also, in both traditions, the person who gets the baby Jesus is then said to gain good luck. This similarity is interesting because it serves to explain how there is multiplicity for certain traditions who one may think are very original to one specific location when in actuality, many cultures practice the same thing but perhaps at different times as was in this case. Overall, knowing this can bring people of different backgrounds together. Personally speaking I now feel like I have more in common with my informant than I did before.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve

Informant: “On Christmas eve children are not allowed to enter the room where the Christmas tree is going to be in, until given permission by their parents. Children are told that Baby Jesus brought the tree and the gifts for them. Though, sometimes it is just the gifts that Baby Jesus is responsible for”


The informant is a first generation American who was born in Danbury, Connecticut. She is a middle aged woman with two older children. Her father was born in Oriente, Cuba and her mother was born in Mór, Hungary. The informant did not believe in this baby Jesus lore herself, but heard about this belief from her mother. Her mother told the informant and her sisters of this lore when they were young children approximately six or seven years of age.

Although the Baby Jesus tradition was not actively practiced in the informant’s family, it was actively practiced and believed in her mother’s family when her mother was a child. The informant said that her mother and her family “would go to church and when they got back Baby Jesus would have magically decorated the room and brought gifts.”

The informant and her sisters found the lore to be amusing, and they would sometimes say to things to each other such as “Baby Jesus wouldn’t like that” to jest about the idea of Baby Jesus. She also liked the idea of Baby Jesus because it was different from her cultural experience and “sparked the imagination.” Furthermore, the informant felt that the idea of Baby Jesus really cemented the concept of Christianity during Christmas because belief in Baby Jesus took the focus away from figures like Santa Claus and reemphasized the “real point of the holiday of Jesus’s birth.”

I agree with the informant that this lore effectively brings Christ back into the focus of Christmas because now Baby Jesus is responsible for the Christmas tree and the gifts rather than a character like Santa Claus. As an Episcopalian, I am not a very devoutly religious Christian, but my family and I do go to church on Christmas Eve. Oftentimes, the pastor will spend some time to discuss how people (in reference to other Christians) can forget the reason behind the celebration of Christmas, that it is ultimately the day of Jesus’s birth, rather than just a day of gift-giving and festivities. It seems some Christians consider overlooking the importance of Jesus on Christmas a very serious problem, and methods like this can help alleviate this perceived problem.