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What's in Your Pinata?

Updated on September 21, 2008
Marco Polo
Marco Polo

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 party

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mama at bat!My Grand-daughter, Laney being tortured by Uncle Luther!Lilly, my other grand-daughter, needs assistanceIt's payback time, Luther!Reaping the rewards!Poor pinata!
Mama at bat!
Mama at bat!
My Grand-daughter, Laney being tortured by Uncle Luther!
My Grand-daughter, Laney being tortured by Uncle Luther!
Lilly, my other grand-daughter, needs assistance
Lilly, my other grand-daughter, needs assistance
It's payback time, Luther!
It's payback time, Luther!
Reaping the rewards!
Reaping the rewards!
Poor pinata!
Poor pinata!

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!

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    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Walter,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. This is exactly the way we did with our pinata at my Mom's party and you are so right. It really adds the fun to it!

      Bonnie

    • WPerez1000 profile image

      WPerez1000 

      10 years ago from New York

      Very interesting, I am Hispanic but I did not know the history of the Pinata, even thought I broke several of them!!  Thanks for this terrific hub.  I do like to add a few pointers: use a stick as suppose to a bat, you could hit someone by accident, also if the bat slides off the hands it could hurt someone, in particularly children.  Also, to make it even more funny, after you blindfold the person, have them turn in place about 5 to 10 times, then watch them trying to break the pinata, they look like they are drunk!!!  And your pinata will last longer, so more people can get a try. We usually start with the smallest child and work our way up. Again, wonderful hub, thanks.

      Walter

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Esocial,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. This was a pretty interesting hub to write and I love pinatas too!

      Bonnie

    • esocial profile image

      esocial 

      10 years ago from California

      Super hub! Pinata lover here. Been to Spain, S. America and Mexico -- beautiful cultures there reflected in their craftwork here with pinatas :)

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks, ITD!

      I was also fascinated with the religious symbolism. I was clueless as well! Thanks for dropping by!

      Bonnie

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Bonnie,

      This was a great Hub with tons of great information. I loved the religious symbolism that the pinata was used for. This was so interesting, I had no idea about the pinata at all. Thanks for the education.

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Steph! So do I! Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading and posting!

      Bonnie

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      What a fun, interesting Hub! I love pinatas!

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Princessa,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and I am so glad this brought fond memories for you. I think the next party I have will include one, even if there are no kids. These things are just fun for all ages!

      Bonnie

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      Thanks for this hub. You just brought to my mind lots of good memories. I used to have a birthday party with piñatas, clowns, and all sorts of entertainment when I was a child in South America. My favorite part of the party was always the piñata.

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Donna,

      Thanks for stopping by and I am so glad you enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun at that party and were so grateful to have Mama there for another birthday!

      Bonnie

    • donnaleemason profile image

      donnaleemason 

      10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      I Looove Pinatas. I think they are the funniest thing to have at a party. If you have little kids, don't put the shiny metal confetti in them either, but they are just a hoot to watch.

      Thanks for the memories Bonnie and your slideshow was cute.

      Donna

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Comment! Glad you dropped by!

      Bonnie

    • commentonthis7 profile image

      commentonthis7 

      10 years ago

      good hub i also thought it was orginated with the spanish

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks SirDent! Appreciate you stopping by!

      Bonnie

    • profile image

      SirDent 

      10 years ago

      Vice hub. Lot's of history.

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      So did I, Lisa! And I had no clue as to the meaning of the pinata to the Spanish! I was amazed! Thanks for stopping by and I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Bonnie

    • LisaG profile image

      Lisakg 

      10 years ago from Caribbean

      Very beautiful. I always thought that the pinata originated with the Spanish. You see, you live and you learn.

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