Celebrating a special occasion with flowers is a tradition that goes back millennia, one that can be found in cultures all over the world. But making those flowers out of candy? Only in Italy!
In the small mountain town of Sulmona in Abruzzo, sugar-coated almonds have been used to create intricate bouquets and other decorative centerpieces for centuries. The colorful, gemlike morsels known as confetti stand in for the petals of daisies, tulips, and sunflowers—as well as grapes on a vine, beads on a rosary, and more—twisted together with wire, ribbon, and fabric. The sweetly cheerful bouquets are often sent to celebrate weddings, first communions, graduations, and other joyful occasions, and are considered a crucial part of celebrations across Italy. They’ve become popular internationally, as well; in 2018, a specially designed confetti bouquet was ordered by the British royal family for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle!
Confetti itself has been a special-occasion treat in Italy for generations. The ancient Romans enjoyed a similar sweet of almonds and other nuts coated in honey, but when cane sugar became widely available in Europe in the 15th century, local candy makers quickly adapted to make use of the miraculous new sweetener. Using a meticulous technique of tossing the nuts with layer after layer of liquid sugar in a special copper pot, confetti makers create a shatteringly crisp coating that’s then polished until shiny and smooth. While almonds are the most traditional confetti ingredient, hazelnuts, pistachios, and even chocolate drops can be candy-coated in the same way. Nuns at the church of Santa Chiara in the town were the first to turn confetti into decor, tying them into rosaries to sell to wealthy local families.
In addition to the bouquets, confetti are often handed out in bags called bombonieres as party favors. The number and color of confetti chosen is symbolic—and they’re always given in odd numbers, never even. White confetti are given at weddings while red is traditional for graduations. Wedding parties give five confetti, to symbolize five wishes for a happy marriage, while christenings receive three to represent two parents and the child (or the Catholic Holy Trinity, depending on who you ask).
The next time you’ve got a party to throw, why not get a bouquet that will last longer than your standard flowers—and is a lot tastier, too!