Easter is just a few days away and every few years I try to introduce a new fun aspect to our family Easter gathering. One year it was a brightly decorated chocolate chip cookie cake instead of the usual brownies, cakes and pies. It turned out to be a huge hit and still remains a crowd favorite with a few family members (ahem…cough…David and Emily!) who have a hard time waiting until after lunch to dig into this sweet treat! Well this year I’m introducing “cascarones” to the family!
So, what’s a cascaron? It’s basically a hollowed-out egg filled with confetti! I’ve known about cascarones for quite awhile but I can’t say that they were something we made or enjoyed when I was growing up. Doing a little more research I discovered they are a Mexican tradition that gained popularity in the Southwest, in particular, at Easter time for many families. Some say it was like a merging of Latino traditions and the American tradition of dyeing Easter eggs. Because of the confetti, they are something also frequently used for other celebrations like carnivals, New Years, Cinco de Mayo and even at weddings…although they can also be filled with rice for that particular event!
Looking even farther back in history, cascarones were said to have originated in China where they were filled with scented powders and given as gifts. Because of this they were very popular with the wealthy. Marco Polo is said to have been responsible for bringing the eggs to Europe in the 13th century, and again, enjoyed by the wealthy. They eventually made it to Mexico in the mid-1800s thanks to Emperor Maximilian’s wife, Carlotta. The lovely scented powders were eventually replaced with confetti and became known as “cascarones” since “cascara” in Spanish means “shell.”
Cascarones are made by emptying out an egg through a small hole at one end and cleaning it out thoroughly. After that, you can decorate the eggs by using Easter egg dyeing kits. When they are dry you can even take it further with more decorating but the best part is adding the confetti to the eggs. Make a small funnel with paper to use for the eggs to keep the confetti scattering to a minimum! You can make your own confetti or you can buy it. Then you take a small piece of tissue and glue it over the hole to keep the confetti in the egg. That’s it! Lucky for me though, I found egg cartons of cascarones at a local Walgreens recently. I was at the checkout counter and there they were! I decided to pick up two cartons to enjoy on Easter afternoon with my family, all the while thinking, “this should be interesting!”
You may be wondering how cascarones are used. I figured there had to be a tradition that goes along with these confetti filled eggshells. It’s said that if you make a wish before you break it over an unsuspecting person’s head, your wish will come true. Another school of thought is that the good luck goes to the person who gets the egg cracked on their head! Of course, it’s best to crack the egg in your hand so the confetti pours out on the person rather than actually hitting them with the egg!!!
The other day, I was photographing the cascarones and I gently opened one of the eggs and let the confetti pour out for a shot. As I took the photo, I saw something beautiful. I had put the egg down with the paper covering the opening still somewhat attached. The confetti was scattered in front of it and in that instant, it reminded me of Jesus’ tomb! I immediately stopped photographing to look up any religious meaning behind cascarones. I found that eggs are thought to be a symbol of rebirth. So when the egg is broken and the confetti pours out, it is representative of the resurrection, Jesus’ empty tomb. The confetti then symbolizes a celebration of Jesus’ life and rebirth. So beautiful…I really love this…
So Felices Pascuas/Happy Easter to everyone! If you celebrate Easter, I hope you enjoy a wonderful day celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus with your families. And if you made cascarones or enjoyed them in the past, I would love to hear about it! Meanwhile… let the cascarones crunching begin…and I do hope since this will be a first for my family that they will observe proper cascaron cracking etiquette!!!