What's in Your Pinata?
Where Do They Come From?
Most of today's society are familiar with the pinata with all the fun and excitement it creates. However, many never stop and wonder where they came from, who invented them and what they stood for. I decided I would check it out just for my own curiosity, not realizing how fascinating the history of the pinata would be.
I was taken back in time when Marco Polo began the custom after discovering the Chinese fashioning figurines of cows, oxen and even buffalo. He covered them with colored paper, adorned them with harnesses and trappings and filled them with seeds to celebrate the new year. The figure was then hit with brightly colored sticks until it broke and the seeds spilled forth. The seeds were then burned and the ashes were gathered to bring good luck throughout the new year.
The custom passed into Europe in the 14th century and it was adapted to the celebration of Lent. The Italian word pignatta means fragile pot. The Latin prefix pina means a cluster of flowers or fruits. Thus, some use pinatas in the shape of pineapples or pine cones.
The custom then spread to Spain, the first Sunday in Lent becoming a fiesta called Dance of the Pinata.
Coming to America
At the beginning of the 16th century, Spanish missionaries who arrived in Mexico were faced with a very different way of life than what they were used to. The conquest meant taking over territories that had recently been discovered as America as well as the imposition of a language, Spanish customs, habits and religion.
Although not easy, the evangelists had to change the entire belief in many Gods ideology of many different Indian populations. They invented strategies that they could use to teach the mysteries of God to the Indians.
The missionaries had to teach them about sin and how we must be strong in order to beat the devil and reap the rewards of Heaven. This was the most complicated task.
The missionaries designed a pinata from a huge ceramic pot covered with colored paper in the shape of a 7 point star. Each point represented one of the deadly sins. It should be something that would come down from and then rise up to the sky, thus the decision to use the star.
The bright colored paper was used to symbolize how the devil taunted and tempted them. In order to overcome the temptation, break and get rid of the evil, they had to hit it very hard. The blindfold was used to show how sin blinded them. The family and friends that guided them in where to strike represented God leading them on the path to salvation in order to break the chain of evil. When they were well-guided, the pinata was broken.
The fruit, candy and toys that fell from the pinata represented the gifts that shower them from Heaven as the chain of evil is broken. Then, as the rewards are reaped, the happiness filled their hearts with joy.
Transformations of Years
Through the years, the shape of the pinata has been transformed into many different objects such as fruits, animals, vegetables, cartoon characters and many other shapes. Mostly made from cardboard today, the pinata is no longer only used for the posadas (celebration of faith) but also at birthday parties and other celebrations.
Mama's 72nd birthday partyClick thumbnail to view full-size
No Age is Safe From Pinatas!
There is no age limit to the enjoyment of the pinata. Young and mature alike can get their adrenaline flowing when swinging at the pinata and thinking about all the goodies that will come forth when the goal is met.
As you can see from the slideshow to the right, my family also enjoys the fun of a pinata. These were taken at my Mom's 72nd birthday party. The very first picture is her taking her swing at the goodies. My brother, Luther, was the torturer with the rope, swinging, raising and lowering the pinata to avoid the batter's swing.
But as you can see, he got payback when his turn came and my nephew, David, gave him a taste of his own medicine! In the end, the pinata was broken and the kids (and adults) reaped the rewards of the goodies that flowed. Even the youngest of the group got a chance to swing with a little help.
The results can be quite hilarious when the right one is at bat, as you will see in the video below. Whoever this lady is in the video is someone you may do well to avoid irritating!