Present in virtually all of Mexican family celebrations, the piñata is a cornerstone to Mexican children’s parties. You just don’t have party involving children if you don’t have a piñata.
Piñatas have an interesting history and have morphed from both European and aboriginal cultures. In Europe piñatas likely made their way from China. Marco Polo discovered a cultural event with the Chinese hitting decorated paper mache animal with colorful sticks. When broken, seeds were exposed and the remains burned and buried for good luck.
This celebration became part of the 14th century lent celebration in Europe. The shape of the piñata was originally shaped like a pineapple. ‘Piñata Sunday’ is the first Sunday in lent and in Spain there was a fiesta known as the ‘Dance of the Piñata’.
In Mexico a similar tradition took place for both the Aztec and Mayan cultures. The Aztec priests placed a decorated clay pot on a pole to celebrate the birthday of the God “Huitilopochtli” – God of war, sun, and human sacrifice. The pot was broken with a club or stick and the stuffing was and offering to the God. Similarly the Mayans made a game of this and suspended the pot and hit it while blindfolded.
The missionaries untied these customs to convert the native populations to Christianity and promoted piñatas at parties and fiestas. The 7 points on the traditional piñata represent the seven deadly sins – greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath and lust and taught the virtues of the catechism.
The blindfolded represents faith which must be blind. Often the crowd will spin the participant who is the leading force against evil, around thirty three times to represent the life of Christ. Other biblical symbols and lessons include: Looking to the heavens for the prize. virtue over evil, just rewards, charity and shared divine blessing, justification of faith.
The religious connotation of the piñata is largely lost and only the game of fun has survived.
Hit, hit, hit. Don’t lose your aim, Because if you lose, you lose the road. This piñata is much manna, only contains oranges and sugar cane.”
Today Piñatas can be found in every market. While traditional ball with the seven sins points still exist, popular piñatas include a cast of cartoon characters. Marvel Comics recently complained about copy write infringement with piñatas based on their characters and many market piñata sellers were closed in Mexico City. However, Batman, Spiderman, Snow white still sell strong throughout the country as do political and sexually oriented piñatas.