Mexican Piñatas (Their Meaning)
Breaking of Piñatas
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What are Piñatas?
Piñatas are clay pots or cardboards covered with newspaper and adorned with multicolored paper. In the inside they contain candy, fruit and snacks. A piñata is usually hung from a cord and a blindfolded person takes their turn to break the piñata with a wooden stick.
After breaking , a piñata spreads its contents, which are then gathered by children, young and old people alike. Piñatas are part of Christmas celebrations and parties in Mexican tradition and other countries in the world. They are usually made to represent the figure of a star with seven points; however, there are also piñatas made to represent other figures, like that of Judas Thaddaeus and whatever people think deserves the beating of their life for having misbehaved.
History of Piñatas
It is believed that the tradition of breaking clay pots originated in China, where they utilized them to celebrate the New Year. Medieval explorers brought the tradition to Italy and from there to Spain. After the discovery of America in 1492, the tradition was brought to the new world.
After the Spanish conquest, the Spanish missionaries used the piñata as a means to the Christianism of the conquered. The missionaries and the people alike transformed the clay pots into very attractive and colorful pieces of artcrafts.
There is evidence that the mexicas celebrated a similar festivity in honor of Huitzilopochtli (God of war). Since cultures often follow similar customary characteristics, this could mean that the natives of America decided to adapt the festivity of piñatas to one of their own, all for the sake of harmony.
Meaning of Breaking Piñatas
Piñatas were used as a means to teach Christianism in the New World. Piñatas usually have the form of a star with seven cones, each cone represents a deadly sin and the brilliant colors of pinatas represent the temptations at which a human is exposed on the earth.
At the breaking of a piñata the blindfolded person personifies the blind faith which has triumphed over sin. The contents of the piñata represent the rewards from the kingdom of God.
The piñatas then were used to attract people for religious instruction. Due to the effectiveness of the piñatas, they were installed as a new religious tradition among many cultures in the new world.
Modern Tradition of Breaking Piñatas
It is believed that the modern tradition of breaking piñatas originated in the town of Acolman close to the archaeological site of Teotihuacan. In 1586, the missionaries, with the authorization of Pope Sixtus V began the holding of masses during the Christmas festivities.
Later, these masses were named posadas, which a festivities adopted by Mexico and other countries in central America. Posadas in Mexico, last nine days from the 16th to the 24th of December and they are intended to remember the pilgimage of Mary and Joseph from their home to Belem.
They also remember the three kings; Caspar Melchior and Balthazar, who came from their kingdoms guided by the North star to bring gifts to Jesus. On each day, starting from the 16th, a piñata is broken by people in the Mexican neighborhoods.
Pastorela (Posadas Navideñas)
La Feria de la Piñata
Acolman, in the State of Mexico, historically celebrates "La Feria de la Piñata." This is celebrated with a popular festivity where several rural communities participates with the design of their own piñata of which the biggest and most original is recognized.
Along with piñatas and posadas, Acolman´s festivities includes an array of activities, including charreria, horse racing, sports, wrestling, gastronomy, popular music groups and dancing.
Statue of a Monk Holding up a Piñata
What are Posadas?
Las posadas are festivities that were introduced by the missionaries as a teaching aid of Christianism to the natives of America. These are celebrated during the 9 days before Christmas Eve and they remember the hard days Maria and Joseph endured before the birth of their son Jesus Christ.
People usually organize one posada each day in which they are given candles to accompany the pilgrimage of statues or people personifying Joseph, Mary, the Angel and a donkey. During the pilgrimage, people often sing litanies, asking for a place to pass the night.
They continue singing litanies at the main entrance of a house in the neighborhood until , finally, arriving at one where they are given shelter. People enter the house where they pray a rosary and after that some people take their turns to break the piñata.
Piñatas Around the World
In the present , piñatas have been adopted in various parts of the world and they have turned into an eyecatching show by themselves due to the artistry with which most of them are made. It is very comun to see piñatas in all Central America and Mexico, buit also in the United States and this is due to the influence of the Mexican culture.
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