Pinata History

One of the most fun traditions born in Mexico and celebrated worldwide is the piñata. To play piñata, a colorful container filled with sweets and trinkets is hung from a string while a blindfolded player takes turns swinging at the piñata with a stick. When enough hits cause the sweets to spill out, everyone rushes in for their share.

Piñata history in Mexico is said to have begun when Aztec warriors hanging clay pots in trees by strings. The clay pots were filled with water and decorated with the likeness of the rain god. The breaking of the pots would represent thunder, and the falling water symbolized the rain. Another version of the Aztec piñata origin has the clay pots covered with feathers and filled with trinkets hanging in trees to bring in the new year. The Aztec people would strike at the pots with sticks to release the goodies.

Spanish priests, struggling to explain the concepts of Christianity to the natives, borrowed the idea and turned it into a slightly gentler game, giving piñata history a European influence. The pots were covered in red paper to represent the devil and the blindfolded player was asked to symbolically destroy the devil and retrieve the sweet rewards of heaven. Other breakable materials were used in Mexican piñatas as well, such as papier-mache and straw. Catholic priests continued to draw on the symbolism of the piñata with the introduction of the star-shaped piñata. These often had seven points, representing the seven deadly sins. When the player struck the piñata, they were taking a stand against evil, and when the treats fell out, it symbolized the blessings of heaven. Donkey-shaped piñatas, representing the donkey that Mary rode to Bethlehem, became another popular shape in Mexico.

Party piñatas quickly made appearances at birthday parties for adults and children, Christmas celebrations and festivals throughout Mexico. Party piñatas soon became a staple for every kind of party. Several songs, chants and rhymes have evolved for children to sing while trying to break the piñata. Today, while there are still round and star piñatas to be found, piñatas come in all shapes and sizes, from popular cartoon characters to animal shapes. Some stores in Mexico exclusively sell piñatas and are known as pinaterias.

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