King Cake Tasting 2018 (copy)

Traditionally, king cakes mark the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the start of Carnival season.

For many people, Christmas ended on Dec. 25. But, historically, that is the start of Christmas.

In modern times, Thanksgiving (or even sooner) marks the start of Christmas. But in the past, Christmas didn’t start until Dec. 25. This allowed for the church to observe Advent, a time of waiting and contemplation about the Savior on his way to save us. The Advent season starts four Sundays before Christmas.

Dec. 25 was the kick off of the 12 days of Christmas, made famous by the song filled with gifts of birds, trees, rings and people performing various activities.

Christmas celebrations would end with Twelfth Night, a term known because of Shakespeare's play. The next morning, Jan. 6, is Epiphany, the day the Magi, or Wise Men, arrived to meet the baby Jesus. And in south Louisiana, Epiphany is the start of Carnival season and king cakes.

In some traditions, Christmastide ended on Feb. 2 with Candlemas, considered the time that the baby Jesus was presented at the Temple. This was when many people took down their Christmas decorations.

So keep on celebrating Christmas for a few more days.

Also, if Jan. 1 isn’t enough time for you to observe the start of a new year, or you want a chance to make new resolutions after failing before Epiphany, many religious traditions and cultures have a New Years.

Some of these special days start at sunrise the night before. Others may have regional changes in celebration dates.

Here are some dates and descriptions from

Jan. 1

Gantan-sai or Shogatsu is the Shinto New Year festival. People say prayers for inner renewal, prosperity and health.

Jan. 28

Tu B'shevat is the Jewish New Year for Trees, a measurement for determining the age of trees for tithing purposes.

Feb. 5

The Chinese New Year is a 15-day festival that includes giving thanks and remembering ancestors who have died. A religious ceremony honors heaven and earth.

March 21

Norooz or Naw-Rúz or Nav Ruz or any of numerous similar spellings is the New Year in Persia and for Zoroastrians and Baha'i. The spring equinox represents the start of planting and the rebirth of nature.

March 25

Ugadi (ugAdhi) is the Hindu New Years Day. The name comes from Sanskrit words for age and starting. The creator of the world, Lord Braham, began creation on this day. It is one of at least eight New Year observances in regions of India.

April 14

Baisakhi or Vaisakhi or Bakrami Samvat is the Hindu solar new year. Wishes for a good life in the coming days are exchanged. The Sikh New Years observance recalls the formation of the Sikh group Khlasa.

Aug. 20

Hijra is the Islamic New Year remembrance of the migration of Muhammad and followers to Medina in 622. The Islamic New Year changes in relation to the Gregorian calendar, moving up 11 days every year.

Sept. 19-20

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a time for introspection, prayer and penance. It ends with Yom Kippur.

Nov. 14

Diwali or Deepavali is observed by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. It is a five-day festival of lights marking the end of the Hindu year. Some cultures also observe the first day of the year as a holiday.

Sources:; The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, Jonathan Z. Smith, editor; 

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