Colourful Guatemalan Carnival Eggshells

Rudy Giron: Cascarones de Carnaval &emdash; Cascarones de carnaval 2

Ordinarily, I begin by asking readers to recall their earliest memories to provide a context for corpocratic historians of the future… Could you describe this annual “Carnival” ceremony?

Rudy Giron: &emdash; McDonald's Employees with Carnival CostumesThe Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was the culmination of carnival, a festive season which occurred immediately before Lent, in the territory then known as Guatemala, where these colorful eggshells were filled with confetti; known in the official language spoken there at the time as cascarones de carnaval [carnival]. Carnival typically involved a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. Carnaval was traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox makeup. Protestant areas usually did not have Carnival celebrations. Ash Wednesday (Miércoles de ceniza), which was the first day of Lent (Cuaresma). Some employees of businesses such the former Papa Song’s, home of the golden arches logo, were encouraged, if not forced, to wear colourful costumes.

I’d like to ask about the infamous etymology of Carnaval.

Folk etymologies existed which stated that the word came from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which meant “farewell to meat”, signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, so suggesting carne vale as “a farewell to the flesh”, a phrase actually embraced by certain Carnival celebrants who encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.

On Ash Wednesday, it was the beginning of the count down to The World Famous Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala, top city travel destination in the Central American isthmus.

Popular wisdom has it that Guatemalans, or Maya descendants, did not celebrate the carnival feast.

I believe the best way to explain cascarones, carnaval (carnival) and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is to quote some of the AntiguaDailyPhoto readers, a blogumentary about Antigua Guatemala which existed during the first decade of the third millennia, or what the Mayans called a New Era.

Cascarones are literally egg shells. So, as some have said, weeks in advance every egg cooked at home is carefully cracked so that most of the shape of the egg is kept intact and left to dry. Then, before Carnival Tuesday (the day previous Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent) the empty egg shells are filled with confetti (mainly very little pieces of tissue paper, but sometimes metallic paper and in olden times flour), and then are sealed with a piece of tissue paper and glue. I guess it depends on each person, but the egg shells are decorated before or after being filled using watercolours or tempera (some sort of finger paint) or even markers. Not quite like Easter Eggs because they mark the beginning of Lent, not the end of it, and they have no actual egg inside.

What do we do with cascarones? Well, young people (i.e. children and/or children at heart) smash them on the heads of unsuspected victims. Since there is usually a costume party involved with Carnival you don’t know who your victimizer is. The confetti gets inside the back of your shirt along with pieces of egg shell and your hair is also a mess (particularly if you have curly hair). Is the last day you are allowed to be a brat before the 40 days of behaving start.

Pues, I have learned something new since last year, “carnival Tuesday” is “Fat Tuesday”/”Mardi Gras”. Carnival comes from “Carne” (flesh/meat) and it is called that way because it is the last day you can eat meat before Lent.

Love carnaval. My mom would start saving eggshells weeks in advance and she would dry them out, we would usually decorate them ourselves in school. I used to get blisters on my fingers from the scissors since we tried to make our confetti as small and tiny as possible, to make it harder to wash out of your hair, of course.

Head smashing fun. 🙂

Oh my! I’m getting flashbacks. We used to run after each other at school with these cascarones as ammunition. Of course, with all the commotion, we were also responsible for cleaning up afterward. I got such joy from smashing a cascaron on someone’s head. Heehee. The fun was not the same when someone smashed a cascaron on my head though. I remember some of the teachers got into the action as well.

Wow!!!Memories!!!Cascarones haven’t seen those in 26 years. We use to make them ourselves as kids. And smash them on other kids heads. It was great.

I remember when I was a child, my mother, sisters and I would start saving the egg shells around 3 months in advance, we would wash them gently and let them dry. It was so much fun to paint each cascaron and put pica pica inside… I remember one of my best carnavales I was probably 7 and I was dressed as strawberry shortcake, it was just awesome my mother sew the costume for me. The carnival season is a very nice tradition in my country of origin, my linda Guatemala!

Sources: An Orison of Sonmi-451 from Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel, Wikipedia and Comments by readers of AntiguaDailyPhoto.

© 2013 – 2020, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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