Last weekend, my family smashed 50 dozen eggs. On each other’s heads. And the whole lot was gone in about 5 minutes.
It’s not a food fight, just a very beloved family Easter tradition that has freaked out neighbors for more than a decade now.
Every Easter, we start the day at church in Easter dresses, bonnets and suits. We sing, we pray, and we celebrate over a really great meal together. But once the dishes are cleared, the play clothes and sneakers come out (and sometimes helmets for the babies), and the race begins.
For anyone watching the spectacle, it probably looks as though my family members have gone crazy. At the word “go,” about 20 of us (anywhere from ages 1 to 90-plus) race around my aunt and uncle’s backyard to find the eggs. As soon as someone finds an egg, they smash it on the head of the person closest to them. The eggshells hold confetti rather than a yolk, though confusing the two is a mistake that’s been made before.
Everyone handles the melee a little differently. Some stockpile the eggs to unleash once the rest of the family has exhausted their piles. Others form packs, small teams of brothers, uncles or cousins that stalk the backyard. One of the younger kids climbed a tree this year to avoid getting hit. But most just go for the nearest egg and smash it on the closest head. Every year it’s amazing to watch and even more fun to take part in.
My aunt gets all the credit for starting this new tradition, after spying cascarones on one of her travels. It’s said to be good luck to have one broken over your head. It’s also plain old good fun. My aunt spends the entire year using a needle to poke a hole in the shell of every single egg she uses. She dries them, dyes the shells and by January we gather to fill them.
Shredded paper or confetti is stuffed into each shell. A square of colorful napkin is laid across the hole and glued in place to keep the confetti inside. Once dry, the eggs sit and wait until Easter. It takes months of work to make the stockpile, but only minutes to deplete it.
It’s a rite of passage for any new member of the family and the (unspoken) rules are very few.
- Thou shall not gang up on anyone under 1, over 80, pregnant or recovering from surgery.
- Thou shall go as quickly as thou can. There are no re-dos and the only safe zone is inside the house, where thou is forbidden from hiding or bringing eggs.
- Though tempting, thou shall refrain from breaking said eggs down the back of someone else’s shirt and running away giggling.
- Thou must not steal anyone else’s eggs – unless they have hidden said eggs in your car. Then thou must find said eggs and break them over said culprit.
When my aunt wanted to reseed the backyard one year, she used grass seed instead of confetti in each egg. A great idea in theory, but everyone got itchy and we went back to the confetti.
When the stash is exhausted, the confetti is spread everywhere – on the lawn, the garden, our hair, our clothes. Pants are grass-stained. Hands are covered in dirt. And faces? Ear-to-ear smiles on nearly every single person. (I’ll be honest. Someone is usually crying, but it’s usually because they want more eggs, have a minor injury or someone violated rule No. 3.)
I’ve tried for many years to get pictures of the craziness, but every shot is a blur. Or the camera is knocked out of my hand. Or I faceplant.
This year, I finally succeeded in getting some photos.
Whenever I tell someone about our egg hunt, they think my family is nuts. Maybe we are. But I love every second of it and I wouldn’t trade the day for anything. And I hope my girls always remember it.
Sure, you’re thinking, this would’ve been helpful to know before Easter. But if you want to start this tradition with your own family (and I really, really think you should), now is the time to start.
Start saving your eggs. Once you get two dozen shells, dye them and let them dry, out of the way. Then start shredding colorful paper and stockpiling glue and party napkins. By January or February, start assembling your cascarones so that you’re not waiting until the last minute. And on Easter morning, hide the lot and wait to see what your family thinks of your new tradition. And share a photo with me (if you manage to get one.)