One way to attack the winter gloom is to celebrate in one way or another every freakin' holiday that appears on your Hallmark calendar. This, fortunately, also expands the sugary goodness of the Candy Season cycle.
The first holiday after the New Year is Epiphany, the day that the Three Wise Men showed up to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Little Baby Jesus (or something like that). When I was a little girl in New Orleans (and the only non-Catholic on my block, or in my public school, or pretty much in the world, as far as I knew at the age of six), I didn't know exactly what Epiphany was, but I did know that it hailed the opening of King Cake Season!
King Cakes, for the uninitiated, are essentially a yeasty sweet roll in the shape of a ring with a little plastic baby hidden somewhere inside. The person who gets the baby in their piece of cake is the King and must buy the next cake. At least, that's how my grandmother explained it to me. At six, I just wanted the toy surprise.
King Cakes also began Mardi Gras season, if I remember correctly. My grandpa was in a Krewe (and I don't want to examine the implications of that too deeply), so I was aware of the balls that went on through January. Then, the parades began sometime after the next High Holy Day of the Candy Season, Valentine's Day. One route went right in front of my grandparents' house, so we were always finding beads and doubloons throughout the day; and, of course, all of the girls at school showed up to class decked out in the height of plastic jewels.
After Mardi Gras, Lent set in, a period of fasting and giving up of good things lasting forty days and ending with that orgy of chocolate, the highest of High Holy Days in the Candy Season, Easter. Who cares if bunnies had nothing to do with the suffering and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ? There were pink frilly dresses to wear, and plush rabbits to cuddle, and -- mostly -- lots and lots and lots of CANDY!
Somewhere in there, too, St. Patrick's Day fell, which also involved a parade. I also associate it with a particular shamrock-shaped cake that my grandmother's students had made for her (or was it faculty or staff? She was a principal at a high school -- of the world, actually, if you asked her -- and their mascot was something or another Irish). I remember in particular that the stem was made of Twinkies. We ate a lot of different kinds of crap, but my mom had some sort of prejudice against Twinkies and other snack cakes. To her credit, she has overcome that prejudice in the intervening decades; but, at the time, that green frosted Twinkie was a rare treat.
One year, my grandmother overcame her own prejudice against the Italians, and took us to some St. Joseph's altars. St. Joseph's Day fell sometime around St. Patrick's Day, and, really, St. Patrick's Day parades were often Irish-Italian parades. People of Italian descent would put up these amazing altars, filling entire garages, covered with all sorts of baked goods. They may have had other things on the altars, but I seldom saw past the baked goods. Then, the families would serve you some of the baked goods, and -- boy! -- were they tasty!
In the midst of all of this, you can throw in Valentine's Day, with it's cornucopia of chocolate and explosion of red and noxious shades of pink; Groundhog Day, which was the day that a couple I once knew finally consented to remove their Christmas tree in order to milk the color and lights through the dark days of January; President's Day, which I associate with a cherry-topped cheesecake that my mother would make because, you know, Ole George chopped down that cherry tree; and MLK Day, which is usually the last day of liberation before the semester begins.
Notice how sugary things are always involved in these celebrations? Maybe I need lunch.
Anyway, in other words, if you are desperate, you can recognize these holidays in one way or another in order to hold off the Seasonal Affective Disorder that scoffs at your antidepressants and give the finger to your full-spectrum lightbulb.
Thus, in honor of Epiphany (although about three days late), to hold off the sadness of dismantling the Christmas tree and my imminent return home, and because the Gentleman Caller had never heard of one, I improvised a King Cake out of Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls: