The zaniness of the holidays is silenced, normalcy just around the corner, and gifts unwrapped although January’s reality that comes with the credit card bill might dim the sparkle a of the Christmas glow.

One might also think it’s time to address that pesky, burgeoning waistline, fueled by the past month of a steady diet of over indulgence of fine dining and spirits. But as we in south Louisiana are blissfully aware, the culmination of the Christmas season is merely a segue into another culinary feast.

You guessed it, king cake season has officially begun, so scrap those diet plans for the near future. The delectable, sugar-laden delicacy that does nothing to tame ever expanding hips and belly will be a staple of our diet until Rex and Comus meet on Mardi Gras night, drawing the curtain on the Carnival season.

But if it’s any comfort, as if we really need an excuse to delve into one of our favorite comfort foods, the king cake has Biblical roots. Also known as the king’s cake, this treat has long been associated with the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, when the Magi arrived in Bethlehem and presented gifts to the baby Jesus on the 12th night after his birth. In south Louisiana, Epiphany is also the kickoff of the Mardi Gras season, which marks the unofficial launch of the king cake season.

Although the tradition of the cake is traced to the Epiphany, some proffer that its roots actually go back to an ancient pagan festival in the Roman Empire. During those times, the annual Saturnalia, which honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, was celebrated. Cakes were made to celebrate the harvest, with fava beans actually being baked into the roll. It should be noted that fava beans were not only believed to be magical but also used for voting, which, given Louisiana’s thorny political legacy, could add a new dimension to our voting booths.

According to tradition, it was during the Middle Ages when the king cake began to be associated with the Epiphany. The conflation of Saturnalia/Epiphany sparked a rampage of debauchery, including boozing, dancing, masquerading and gambling, with a splash of religion tossed in before the solemnity of Lent began. Sound familiar?

Back then, the tradition of baking a bean into the cake continued, but, of course, that has now transitioned into the plastic baby, which represents the baby Jesus.

In France, the original cake was a dry French bread type dough with sugar on top and the bean on the inside. History tells us that tradition was brought to Louisiana by French-Canadian explorer Pierre La Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, who is regarded as one of the fathers of New Orleans.

Through the years, bakers have added their own touches to the traditional king cake, including a multitude of flavors and fillings. Of course, one’s favorite depends on one’s taste, but certainly a popular option is a king cake that is nothing more than a giant donut baked in the shape of a king cake with even more sugar added on top. Eat at your own risk.

And don’t forget, it’s unacceptable, bordering on a cultural felony, to getting the baby and not revealing it to others, thereby shirking on your responsibility to buy the next king cake. Remember, baby Jesus is watching.

Happy Epiphany!