The History of the Piñata Posted by on Dec 27, 2007 in Uncategorized


As the holiday season comes upon us, I felt it timely to clear up a misconception about the piñata.The piñata is widely viewed as a Mexican diversion and has become an indispensable attraction in children’s birthday parties throughout the world.However, in Mexico the piñata makes its most important appearance, not at birthday parties, but during the nine days leading up to Christmas.Starting on December 16th, families and friends gather to celebrate La Posada, a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter as they traveled to Bethlehem.In addition to enjoying food and drink, guests enjoy competing to break a piñata..

Today’s piñatas might seem far removed from religion, but in colonial Mexico they played a highly symbolic and didactic role within the church.The piñata was first used in Mexico by the Spanish missionaries to attract the native peoples to Catholicism.The indigenous peoples already practiced a similar celebratory act using a decorated clay pot, and so the Spaniards reasoned that its adoption for use in Catholic rituals would make the people more receptive to the new religion.At the same time, the piñata was used to teach central aspects of the Catholicism. The original shape of the piñata was a seven-pointed star, each point symbolizing one of the seven deadly sins.Its bright colors were meant to represent the attractive disguise Satan uses to lure man to him, while participants were blind-folded to represent their blind faith.The act of breaking the piñata represented the defeat of Satan, for which the participant was rewarded for his or her faith with a shower of candies and fruits.

Although the piñata has lost its clear religious connotations, in Mexico the most popular piñata is perhaps still the traditional seven-pointed star. Cardboard and paper mache have taken the place of the decidedly more dangerous clay of centuries past, however.Of course, you can also find thousands of other shapes, from Dora la Exploradora to Bob Esponja!

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