While they take mere seconds to crack over the heads of loved ones, cascarones are products of hours of work that spans nearly an entire year following the annual Fiesta celebrations in San Antonio.
The colorful, confetti-filled eggs are a staple of the annual festivities and Easter in south Texas, and people from across the city take part in making, selling, and joyfully destroying the eggs as part of the tradition.
This year, tens of thousands of cascarones will be broken throughout Fiesta – which begins tonight – their technicolor confetti painting the streets of downtown and lingering for weeks as the last remnants of the 11-day celebration.
About a week after Fiesta each year, Maureen Berryman – chairwoman of the San Antonio Conservation Society‘s Fiesta Cascarones Commission – and dozens of other Fiesta-enthusiasts get to work on making next year’s eggs. They gather every Thursday at the River House behind the Edward Steves Homestead to eat snacks and exchange chisme, while creating their little pieces of Fiesta.
Some Thursdays they paint the empty egg shells – soft pastels, vibrant reds, blues, and greens, adorning a few with the words “Viva Fiesta!” and other festive images. Participants have their own technique, Berryman said, “painting either with a brush or wearing gloves and painting with their fingers, or some will draw little doodles on them, some will rub them so they look marbly.
“Each [has] their own way of painting eggs.”
Other days, the group works on filling the painted shells, diving their hands into boxes of confetti, sprinkling in the filling, and capping the eggs with colored tissue paper. It’s an effort the group has been leading for more than 45 years, said Berryman, who has been a part of the tradition for about 25 years. Others have been participating since the very beginning.
May June Moore, 90, was invited to join the fun by her friends – twins Angelica Teneyuca and Angelina De Peña – some years ago. She keeps participating because of the camaraderie she’s found.
“It’s a group thing where everybody pitches in and works together,” she said as she sprinkled confetti into a rose-colored egg. “I think that’s what makes it [special].”
The women – and a few men – involved this year have already made more than 53,000 cascarones, according to Berryman. The finished eggs are stored in cases, stacked from floor to ceiling – seven boxes high, five across – in the River House basement that was once an indoor swimming pool.
Soon, they’ll be taken to La Villita in downtown San Antonio to be sold at $1 per three eggs at Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA), the Conservation Society’s biggest fundraising event. The four-day event, full of a diverse range of food, drinks, music, and culture, wouldn’t be remotely the same without the cascarones, Berryman said.
“We sell them out every year,” she said. This year, that would amount to more than $15,000.
The effort is one that involves various aspects of the local community. Most of the eggs come from Frontier Enterprises, which owns the popular diner chain Jim’s. The rest of the eggs, Berryman said, are brought to the group by friends and family who save them throughout the year. The confetti filling is made and cut by a local company.
More than anything, Berryman and the majority of those she shares her craft with each Thursday participate in the ritual because they appreciate the tradition and history. It’s one that originated in China, moved to Italy, and later to Mexico, where people began filling the eggs with confetti.
For Berryman, who is Hispanic, the tradition elicits memories of her childhood, when she made – and, of course, cracked – cascarones around Easter.
“The backyard [would] look like a confetti playground,” she said. When she went to NIOSA with her mother and began taking part in the weekly cascarón-making sessions, she was hooked. Each year, along with friends new and old, Berryman shares the tradition with her own family, including her sister-in-law, her granddaughter, and some of her nieces.
And during NIOSA, she shares it with all of San Antonio.
“If you haven’t had an egg cracked on your head,” she said, “you’re just not having fun.”