A cross between an Easter egg and a piñata? A simple, but messy, party favor? A harbinger of good luck? In Mexico, during the Lenten celebrations of the Catholic religion, eggs are hollowed-out, washed, then painted and filled with confetti to use as favors during Easter and other festivities. Here’s a brief history of how this tradition got here, and what it might represent.
These colorful, confetti-filled eggs are called cascarones, which comes from the Spanish word for shell, “cáscara”, in the singular form. Like all traditions, the origins are a bit dubious, but popular belief holds that it all started with Marco Polo, who brought them to Europe from China. What does seem to be certain is that they came to Mexico from Europe in the 19th century during France’s short-lived attempt to establish a monarchy in Mexico: cascarones were among the many things that the French, specifically the Emperor’s wife Carlotta, introduced to the country. The tradition’s trajectory from Asia to Europe and then the Americas, however, was not without its modifications. Originally (in China and Europe), the eggs were filled with perfumed powders and held more value among the upper echelons of society, particularly women. It’s not clear what the exact use for them was then, but surely the festive, playful and superstitious nature of them today evolved along with the popular celebration of Easter.
In the U.S., the tradition is mostly popular in the Southwest, due to the proximity to Mexico. In San Antonio, cascaronesare one of the defining characteristics of the annual 10-day Fiesta, where as many as 55,000 cascarones are made — and cracked — each year. Beyond Easter, they are now also used in countless other celebrations in the region, including weddings, birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, and Day of the Dead.
Uses and symbolism
The symbolism around cascarones is mainly centered on being a reminder of the resurrection of Christ in the Christian faith (hence their popular use during Easter). Just as Jesus rose from the tomb, and baby chicks break through the egg shell, so does the confetti in a cascarón 🎉 But the confetti also serves to add to the festive nature of the season — and to the playful game that they’re associated with today. Rather than using them for an egg hunt, people crack the cascarones above an unsuspecting person’s head. It’s fun, messy, but also thought to bring good luck to that person. Young adults have also been known to flirt via cascarones, using them as a sign of affection.
You can buy cascarones in store, but we also wanted to share some DIY fun. You can get creative with these, using alternatives to confetti (candy, small toys, dyed rice, cereal) and decorating with craft supplies you can find at home (markers, paints, glitter). Here are some great and easy-to-follow instructions from The Latina Homemaker, and other useful videos and printables from Mommy Maestra.
Instructions from The Latina Homemaker
- Use a needle to poke a small hole on the top of the egg. Poke a second, but larger, hole on the bottom of the egg.
- Blow air through the small hole to force the yolk out.
- Rinse out the eggshells and allow them to dry.
- Boil 1/2 cup of water with a teaspoon of vinegar. Pour water into a small bowl and add 8-10 drops of food coloring. Do this for each color.
- Use a wire whisk to dip the egg into the dye for at least 5 minutes. Remove the egg and allow it to dry.
- Use a paper funnel or small spoon to fill the eggshell with confetti or any alternative.
- Glue a small round piece of tissue paper to seal the larger hole.
- You can also decorate the eggs with stickers, glitter or other embellishments.