Cascarones

Easter is a celebration that's been around for over 2,000 years; it follows a celebration of seasonal renewal in numerous cultures around the time of the Spring Equinox.

The name “Easter” was derived from “Eostre,” originally a word for a Goddess of the Saxons who was honored with sacrifices about the time of the Passover. For believers, it commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus. The celebration is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, the Paschal Moon.

Over many years and cultures, it has also become a festive time, with the traditional Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, food and groups of family and friends.  A ham is popular for Easter dinner, as is seafood, as well as lamb. There's also usually an Easter egg hunt for the children, with color dyed boiled eggs and maybe a visit from the Easter bunny.

In France, they do not have an Easter Bunny or eggs, but bells! Personally, I was always scared of the giant rabbit.

My early memories of Easter were as a child living in Lubbock, TX. My father was a choir director, so we always attended the Easter service where his choir performed. I also sang in a youth choir as I got a little older. But we were introduced to an Easter tradition in West Texas, that I have never witnessed.

The area where we lived had a predominant Mexican American community, and the way they celebrated, as well as their Easter eggs, was unique. It was done in groups and presented on Easter. They always made an Easter pinata, which back in the 50's was unknown outside of that community.

To create one, they blew up a large circus size balloon and covered it in a house made papier mache. After it dried, they popped the balloon inside and began to melt different colored table candles. As the candles melted, they dripped the wax onto the papier mache pinata, and covered it with colors and different patterns.

When it was dry, they cut a hole in the top, filled it with candy, and it became a giant Easter egg. Then it was ready to be put on a tree limb with a rope, and people pushed it around. The children were blindfolded and swung at it with a stick until someone finally hit it hard enough, to break it open and spill the candy. Then, it was a scramble for the sweets. Of course, pinatas are very well known now, and readily purchased at variety stores, but back then, they were pretty much unheard of, and I don't know anyone who makes their own.

But the most interesting part of those Easters was with the eggs. They weren't dyed, they are called cascarones and are broken over a chosen person’s head. A pinhole was put at the top, and a small opening broken at the bottom. The raw egg was blown out by mouth and the egg, saved in a bowl. After the inside of the eggs were dry, strands of wrapping ribbon or paper were scissor cut into confetti and stuffed into the eggs. When they were filled, the cut was covered with a little adhesive tape, and crayons were flame melted. This is a unique way to use up all those random pieces of old crayons you have around the house. The drippings were put on the eggs, with all colors and designs broken over a chosen one.

They were stored in egg cartons until it was time for the hunt on Easter Sunday, and then hidden from the children. When found, the child could take it to a friend and crack it over their head, and watch the confetti fly out. This colorful shower of confetti is said to bring good luck. Usually by the end, it was a confetti egg battle. It was fun. Even adults would do it.

This Easter tradition was first introduced to Mexico by the Spaniards. During Marco Polo’s visit to China, he observed the filling of hollow eggs with perfumed powder and brought the custom back to Europe. Cascarones can also be traced back to the Italian Renaissance, when men tossed hollowed eggs filled with perfumed powder at the women they were courting.

My family moved back to NC when I was school age, and my mother joined the PTA. That first Easter she showed this custom to the members, and also showed it to the Sunday School classes at our church. Everyone wanted to try it, and it was wildly popular. So much so, that it became a yearly event. We taught it to our children, and they passed it onto their friends, and now it's passed on to the reader. Try it if you can. You won't be disappointed. 

There are so many other Easter traditions, my wife and her large Polish family have their own very special ones but with limited space, I have decided to share one of my favorites. Have fun, and Happy Easter!