A piñata is a brightly colored and decorated container, usually made of cardboard or similar material that can hold different kinds of candies, toys, and coins. It normally hangs from a ceiling with a rope and will only be opened with a stick or baton carried by children who were blindfolded.
But due to some dangers and injuries brought by the swinging bats, a safer version of the piñata was created wherein a string connected to the piñata from the bottom maybe pulled by one of the children in the party or they can make some turns in pulling a single string until it opens. Breaking a piñata is the most awaited game in every birthday party or any celebration.
Piñata are usually present in parties due to its popularity and can be of any shape and designs depending on the theme chosen. A lot of people feel it important to have a piñata that matches with the party theme. There are many licensed characters that are available and can be made from cardboard boxes, papier-mâché, or even clay.
Contents of the Piñata
Traditionally, the contents of a piñata were fruits and sugarcane, but due to modern times fillers have stretched to include all kinds of candy, jewels and toys like balls, plastic jewelry, and any other types of small objects that children will enjoy. All of the children have no preference over the piñata filling, but what excites them most is the release of whatever is inside the box.
Piñatas actually originated in China during the 16th century. It is now recognized as being of Hispanic heritage and has been for quite a long time.
History of the Piñata
Marco Polo discovered some colored figures covered with bright and colorful paper made to look like cows, oxen, and other animals decorated in many different ways while he was in China. This is to welcome the Chinese New Year in China. The Chinese, Mandarins, will beat the figures with colored sticks, and seeds will spread everywhere and then burn the figures. After that the people will collect all the ashes that will bring good luck in the New Year.
This practice spread across Europe, specifically in Italy, where it became a tradition of Lent. The piñata, in Italy, was known to as a "pignatta" which means "fragile pot." They would place some goodies inside of pots and then break them. The pots usually looked like the popular fruit, pineapple. The prefix of this word in Latin translates to piña, which means a group of flowers or fruits and this is where name piñata originated.
This ritual passed to other countries even around Europe. It was also come across to Spain. At first, the piñata represented Satan. It was actually made to be bright and attractive to entice innocent people into touching it. The goods placed inside the pots represented the temptations of the Devil. The stick used to break the piñata represented goodness to fight Satan. The blindfolded person hitting the piñata represented blind faith. The goodies that will come out from the broken piñata represented the gift or reward. The piñata symbolized 'caridad' or 'charity' due to everyone’s opportunity to share in the wonderful gifts and blessings. The message was that all were acceptable through faith in God.
The Spanish brought this tradition to Mexico and to the Aztec Indians. The Aztecs intentionally adopted this activity because it was extraordinarily related to a ritual they already practiced. The Aztecs ornamented clay pots and filled them with treasures in celebration of the birthday of their god of war (Huitzilopochtli). They would then beat the clay pot, which was placed in front of an image of the god of war, and the treasures would fall to the feet of the image which would represent as an offering to him. Since the places of the Aztecs and Mayas were located in Mexico, this kind of practice was spread throughout the country. The tradition survived much longer than the Aztec and Maya civilizations did.
Mexican artists began to make the piñatas in their own ways as the custom of piñatas evolved, decorating them into objects of their own legacy and using cardboard and papier-mâché.
Nowadays, piñatas have been adopted all throughout the world and have become a more popular decoration at parties and celebrations, such as in Chinese New Year parties. Although few people really know the original meanings of piñata it became a very well known accessory at any Asian party supply stores. They are now mostly used as part of the fun activities to celebrate birthdays and Las Posada, the time in which the Mexicans welcome Christmas season.