Mexican Pinata

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The Mexican Pinata (Piñata in Spanish) is made with papier mache and cardboard and covered with colored tissue paper fringes; filled with candies, fruits and small toys is hanged from a rope and repeatedly beaten by children with a wooden stick at Christmas Posadas and birthday parties.

Mexican pinata

On his trip to China, Marco Polo saw the Chinese celebration of the beginning of spring and the sowing season.

For this festival, a clay bull was decorated with colored paper and filled with five different kinds of seeds. The village chief then whipped the ox figurine with a stick until broken, and every villager gathered a slab of the statuette and buried it in his fields to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Marco Polo brought some clay oxen back to Italy; there the concept was adapted to the celebrations of Lent when fruits filled clay pots were broken with a stick.

The first Sunday of Lent became "The Piñata's Sunday". The tradition expanded to other countries in Europe. The word piñata probably comes from the Italian pignata which is believed to mean "pine cone shaped" referring to the clay vessel's shape.

In Spain, the celebration was called Piñata's Dance. Eventually, the clay pot was decorated with ribbons, tinsel and colored paper.

In The New Spain, as a part of the catechizing efforts, San Agustín de Acolman Convent's prior Diego de Soria obtained, in 1587, a Papal Bull from Pope Sixtus V allowing to celebrate Aguinaldos or Christmas Gift Masses from December 16th through the 23th.

These masses, held in the church atriums, were interspersed with Christmas related scenes. To draw a crowd, the Augustinian missionaries used sparklers, fireworks, songs and piñatas.

By the 18th century, secular celebrations known as Las Posadas (The Lodgings) were performed in the neighborhoods from December 16th through the 23th.

Nowadays the celebration begins when neighbors and friends carrying candles and singing visit several houses asking for lodging.

They are refused in the first two houses, but in the third one the congregation is welcomed. The party may include tamales, spirited punch, atole and a piñata.

Around the 1970's, a pinata breaking event was included in kids birthday parties. Therefore, clay pots were substituted by papier mache and cardboard to prevent the heavy pot to fall over the children. This gave the artisans the possibility to create new pinata shapes.

Dog shaped pinata

The Star Shaped Piñata Religious Meaning
The Mexican pinata traditional design is a sphere with seven picks each of them symbolizing the seven capital sins. The pinata's outer shell represents the devil, who tempts humans with a glittering exterior.

The pinata pounders are blindfolded symbolizing blind faith. The pole symbolizes virtue. When the Piñata is broken temptation is defeated by faith and purity; the candies inside the piñata are the prize obtained for being a faithful Christian.

Seven cones pinata

Traditional Mexican Pinata Breaking
The tradition of breaking a pinata on children birthday parties is so deeply rooted that often the celebration is referred to as a piñata.

Traditionally, each participant will take a turn at hitting the pinata which has been hanged from a string and is being moved. The hitter is blindfolded, spun and given the club. The time limit to try breaking the piñata is marked by the traditional song:

Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino.
Hit it, hit it, hit it; don't lose your aim because if you lose it you will lose your way.

La pinata Diego Rivera

La Piñata by Diego Rivera (fragment)

The Mexican Pinata as a Craft
Mexican pinatas evolved thanks to the creativity and talent of Mexican crafters and can be found in any shape and design imaginable.

Nowadays the best selling designs depict popular animation and comics characters as they are the favorites among children. Although Mexico City is the leading producer, piñatas are made everywhere in the country.

In Acolman, a Mexican Pinata Festival is held every December including cultural events, piñata contests, piñata making workshops, and traditional Posadas.

At San Juan de la Puerta, Guanajuato, more than 100 families are dedicated to the creation of piñatas, producing about 16,000 pieces each month.

Christmas pinata

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