One of the greatest things about living in Louisiana is that we are a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, many of which carry some pretty awesome traditions with them. A small sampling of the people that live here come from so many backgrounds: Cajun, Creole, German, French, Spanish, African and Vietnamese are just a few. I think it is part of what makes New Orleans such a wonderful place to live. Everyone is different, yet we all know someone, and we openly share our traditions among a diverse group of cultures that have managed to combine in a way that makes our great city unique.
I am a proud Cajun. Both of my parents are from central Louisiana and came down to New Orleans when they decided to start a family. When I was a kid, they did a great job of blending their Cajun culture with our new “city” life. Not only did they teach us how to speak some Cajun French, but we also learned how to make an awesome Cajun jambalaya, read The Cajun Night Before Christmas with the appropriate dialect, and when it came to Easter, we learned how to “paques” (pock) or “knock” eggs.
What is pocking eggs?
You are probably like, what in the heck does “Paques” mean? In French, the term “Paques” translates to Easter, and it is pronounced like “pock.” While that is the meaning, in the Cajun culture, it also is used to describe an activity that has been around for years. “Knocking” or “pocking” eggs is also the sound that the eggs make when tapped together. I remember the first Easter I celebrated with my husband and his family. We were waiting for lunch to start, and I said “When are we pocking eggs?” and my in laws looked at me like I was a weirdo. They had never heard of such a thing, and it was then that I realized that not everyone does this for Easter!
Of course, now fifteen years later, I have gotten them to join in the fun and today, I’m happy to share with you all my favorite Easter tradition that is straight from my Cajun roots so that you may share it with your family and make memories!
My favorite Easter tradition
On Easter Sunday, our long standing tradition, what we affectionately call “knocking” or “pocking” eggs, is to tap Easter eggs against each other in an attempt to “bust up” your competitors egg. More specifically, you take the pointy ends of the eggs and tap them against each other until one cracks. The person who still has the whole egg collects that broken one and moves on. The last egg standing would be the winner.
In some families, you play for bragging rights, whereas in others, you actually win a prize! It is really up to a family to determine if awards are given. In a town near where my mother is from, Easter Sunday actually boasts a full event dedicated to the activity where there are cash prizes awarded in each category!
Every year, as a child growing up, my cousins and I would get up bright and early with our grandmother and dye several dozen eggs on Good Friday, taking special care to boil them in her very specific way. (I still don’t know the exact recipe, so any of my cousins who may be reading, feel free to tell me!) There was a key to making your egg “stronger” that I still have no idea about.
Then, on Easter Sunday, after we had demolished the candy in our baskets and gone to mass, we would return back to MaMa’s house to “paque” or “knock” eggs – usually an epic battle of some of us trying to bust the yolks out of our competitor’s egg in hopes of getting some extra candy or even some money if we won. After we were all done busting every single egg up, usually my aunts, mom and grandmother would come together to make a big “egg salad” with all of the busted eggs so that we could enjoy them with our meal. These days, it’s not Easter dinner without a serving of that salad alongside our ham and green beans!
While we don’t get to celebrate with our extended family much any longer, we still do this now with my immediate family and my mother always wins. I swear she knows the “secret,” and she just will not share it so that she can maintain her bragging rights. That’s ok, though, because the salad is pretty darn good, and I consider that a win-win in my book!
What is so amazing about this whole experience is that is a tradition that I hold dearly in my heart. Every year, I spend Good Friday boiling a dozen eggs and dyeing them with Andrew. As soon as I smell the pungent vinegar and plop those eggs in teacups filled with brightly colored liquid, those memories of my childhood come flooding back. When it all comes down to it, it’s those types of activities that make childhood so special, and I’m so glad that I can continue it with my own son. For me, it’s passing on these traditions with my own child and sharing the memories with him that is one of my most favorite parts of parenting.
Also, it would be rude if I didn’t share a tasty way to use up all of those busted eggs! Here I’m sharing our family’s recipe for a perfect side for your Easter ham.
Easter Egg Salad
1 dozen hard boiled and dyed eggs, sliced
3/4 cup safflower or canola oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
In a mason jar, combine oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and shake until well blended. Add desired amount to the sliced eggs. Toss well and serve.