Cascarones: Mexican Style Easter Eggs
Tara A. Spears
The first few years that I lived in Mexico I was shocked that the stores didn’t sell Easter candy. I learned that this holiday was celebrated more around church with the highlight being a big multi-generational meal afterwards. Instead of commercially made stuffed toys or chocolate bunnies and marshmallow eggs, the children played with confetti stuffed egg shells and piñatas.
Throughout Mexico cascarones are used to celebrate Easter. The fun is derived from breaking the egg over someone’s head and watching the confetti shower. Some people think that the confetti shower brings good luck and good fortune but for children the pleasure is simply breaking the eggs and enjoying the ensuing flutter of colors.
When you think about it, giving kids a non-fattening gift that keeps them active (and out of the adults hair) is a better choice. This year I made cascarones-Mexican Easter eggs- with my granddaughters. What a fun and special time!
Historians have traced the birthplace of the cascarones custom back to China. It’s believed that the decorated egg shells were brought from Asia by Marco Polo. These original eggs were filled with a perfumed powder and the eggs were used as gifts. From Italy the tradition was carried to Spain and then to North America. Carlotta, the wife of Emperor Maximillian, was so fascinated by the eggs that she brought them to Mexico during her husband’s rule in the mid 1800’s. Of course, religious beliefs became entwined with the secular custom. The tissue decorated eggs symbolically represent the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; the breaking of the egg symbolizes how Christ had risen from the tomb, just like a new born chick opens the shell to begin its life.
In Mexico people replaced the perfumed powder with confetti and named the egg shells cascarones, which derives from the Spanish word “Cascara” meaning shell. In Mexico cascarones were very popular for about a century but the tradition eventually faded. Only in the late 1960s was there a resurgence in popularity as a family tradition. Most people make their own but you can find beautiful hand-crafted, intricately designed eggs that sell for as much as $10 for a single cascaron!
The first photo shows what tools are needed to make cascarones: darning needle, paring knife, thin ribbon (optional) magnet. Push the large needle into the small end of a raw egg. I also pierce the opposite end of the eggs then use the knife to gently make the hole larger. The middle photo shows blowing out the egg from the shell. It helps to be sure to pierce the yolk before blowing to have the insides come out easier. You will be making lots of quiche or scrambled eggs after this project!
Next rinse out the shell and let dry. When the shell is dry, you can enlarge the bottom hole and add confetti. After stuffing the shell, gently glue a piece of tissue paper over the egg, sealing the confetti inside. The last step is to decorate the prepared egg with colored markers, glitter glue, foam cut outs, whatever the kids like.
Another way of using the cascarones is as a party decoration. You can make attractive hanging ornament (I hang them from my palm trees) by inserting a narrow ribbon through the hole and not filling the shells. After making the two holes and emptying the egg into a bowl, thread the needle and push it through both holes. Secure with a large knotted loop on one end, and just a knot on the other end. I found it helpful to use a magnet to ‘steer’ the needle to the second hole so I could grab it. Decorate the exterior as simple or fancy as you like.
In the last few years I have noticed cascarones available for sale in La Penita and Walmart is you don’t want the hassle of the egg blowing. You simple need to add confetti and decorate outside and they’re ready for the party.
Making and giving cascarones is a lovely Mexican custom that is so much fun to do with grandkids. These versatile decorated confetti eggs are not just for Easter, but can be used on other special days, such as Day of the Dead, birthdays, or even weddings, any time you want to entertain children.