Being native Texans born and bred, my cousins, brother and I celebrated Easter traditions with far more enthusiasm than ordinary children — especially the Easter egg hunt. It was a competitive thing. Our plans were laid months in advance. The goal was to arrive at Granny Brown’s farm or some other feral space with washtubs full of cascarones.
What is a cascaron? Well you may ask.
It is an eggshell that is emptied, washed, dried, dyed, filled with confetti and capped with tissue paper. Online instructions are unnecessarily sophisticated — most recommend using a needle to prick the shell and scissors to carefully trim the opening. We always just cracked the shell near the tapered end. It is faster, and with care a sunny-side-up breakfast is possible.
Though we started saving eggshells during the Christmas cookie-baking season, I don’t think brother Mason and I ever won the “most-cascarones” contest. There were only four people in our family who ate eggs, but our cousins had five and a live-in maid with an extended family who contributed to their collection.
Traditionally, the cascarones are hidden and hunted. Once found, the eggshell is crushed in the hand and the confetti sprinkled over your own head — signifying the blessings of spring time.
By mutual agreement, we children decided that it was unseemly to bestow the blessings of springtime upon one’s self. It is far more charitable and loving to bestow the blessings of springtime on anyone else within reach, preferably by stealth. There were no rules against hoarding a stash for surprise attacks, so it was quite possible to have one’s hair filled with confetti weeks after the initial egg hunt.
When our own children came along, we carried on the cascaron family tradition; no reason to let the Easter bunny have all the fun. Over time, confetti became hard to find after the first of the year, so we opted for making our own tissue paper confetti — a rainy day hunt leaves interesting streaks on blond curls.
Room-mothering our eldest through kindergarten revealed to me how ill-prepared my daughter Alex was to face the world. At her first school Easter egg hunt, the children, sufficiently hyped on cookies and candy, were turned loose in search of the expected colorful treasures.
I stood by observing the mayhem when one of the other room mothers turned to me and whispered, “What is wrong with that child?” Alex had found an egg and attempted to bestow the blessings of the joyous season upon the handiest head. To my horror, another child approached and Alex whacked that kid too, paused, looked at the egg in her hand in amazed puzzlement, and tried again. In a final desperate effort, she smacked it on her own forehead, before tossing it aside. She found another egg before I could intervene. This time she selflessly tried to break the egg on her own head first. Then to my relief she came running to me and tearfully reported that the hardboiled eggs were “all wrong and they don’t work.”
I hastily explained the very obvious differences between family traditions and public celebrations. When we got home, Alex eagerly shared her new knowledge about the curious egg hunt and the “wrong” kind of eggs with her pre-K sisters.
Curiously, the mother who had identified my child as odd never let her kid come play at our house.
Decades later I realized that at least one other detail had been omitted in the education of my brood.
Laura, our youngest, had become a mother of her own Easter-egg-hunting-short-people when she phoned to share a bit of news.
“Mom, did you know that cascarones are a real thing? I googled it. I always thought it was something you just made up.”
Warning: If you plan to emulate the Wiley family tradition, neighbors may complain about the scattering of biodegradable debris, so it is best to have a grandparent with a farm or access to some seldom-visited open space. It is more than certain that neighbors will complain if their children are invited to join in and scamper home with a hidden cascaron or two to share with siblings by surprise.
Carolyn Wiley is an award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Longbranch.
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