Pocking & knocking: LaPlace neighbors carry on egg-cellent Cajun tradition
Published 1:26 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023
LAPLACE — Some call it knocking and others call it pocking, but one thing is certain — this Cajun Easter tradition is serious business.
John Fuselier of LaPlace boiled dozens of eggs in advance of an Easter gathering at his daughter’s home. He watched as his grandchildren competed in a multi-round, tournament style bracket, knocking their dyed eggs together until the weaker one gave way. The last egg standing earned the championship title, an Easter Bunny trophy, and a meager cash award.
It called back memories of growing up in Evangeline Parish, when pocking was part of every Easter celebration. Fuselier’s grandparents would start testing their eggs two weeks before Easter in a quest to find the strongest ones. They clinked each egg against their top front teeth and set aside the best. Fuselier’s mother had her own strategy for strengthening her eggs by boiling them in salt and vinegar.
It was said that the cracking of the eggs represented the opening of Jesus’ tomb during the Resurrection, while the egg inside signified new life.
Fuselier’s neighbors, LaPlace residents Amy Gros and Louise Liliedahl, also have fond memories of the egg-cellent tradition. Instead of pocking, a Cajun term derived from Pâques, the French word for Easter, residents of Avoyelles Parish simply called it “knocking.”
It was especially prevalent where Gros and Lilliedahl grew up in Marksville. On Easter Sunday, families would go to the early Easter Mass with a basket of dyed eggs in hand. After Mass, they would gather on the Courthouse square for friendly competition, and the strongest eggs were even featured on a radio show.
“Wanna knock?” the children would ask. Those words were followed by “point or butt?” referring to the top or bottom of the egg.
The winner would take their opponent’s cracked egg, set it in their Easter basket and bring it home. The cracked eggs never went to waste, since they would later become egg salad sandwiches.
Lilliedahl remembers egg knocking was her mother’s greatest pleasure at Easter time. She took pride in her eggs and rubbed them with oil to make them shine, even though they were store bought and no match for the farm-grown eggs Lilliedahl’s uncle competed with.
Over time, her family has carried the Cajun tradition beyond Louisiana’s borders.
Gros still uses the Easter basket from her childhood, spray painted white from the day she walked in the procession on Holy Thursday as a second grader.
“We always had chicken eggs and guinea eggs,” Gros recalled. “A guinea egg is smaller and tougher, so you didn’t want to knock a chicken egg against a guinea egg. It had to be guinea against guinea or chicken against chicken.”
Sometimes her father would tease children by pulling out a goose egg just to see the expressions on their faces.
That was unheard of in Evangeline Parish, where only chicken eggs were acceptable.
“The cheaters would try to bring guinea eggs,” Fuselier said. “If we found out they had a guinea egg, oh, they were banned.”
Another difference was that only the point of the egg could be used for pocking where Fuselier grew up in Mamou. He and his wife shared the tradition with their children, who now share it with their own children.
Fuselier’s daughter, Jeannine Roussel, doesn’t raise chickens or tap eggs against her front teeth to test their strength the way her great grandparents once did. Instead, she buys the best quality brown shell eggs from the grocery store.
Next year, Roussel hopes to see the whole neighborhood get involved in an Easter egg hunt and pocking competition to keep the tradition alive for the next generation.
“It would be a shame to see it go,” she said.