There are different versions about the origin of the piñata, a tradition that has accompanied us in our celebrations since we were little
There are several versions about the origin of the piñata, one version is attributed to Marco Polo who saw them in China and eventually brought them to Europe. However, there are versions that show that cultures such as the Aztec and the Mayans already had a similar tradition.
In Mexico, piñatas are a fundamental part of the festivities and they became the main element of the famous posadas. We have all broken some in the birthday celebrations of young and old. This colorful object gives us moments of fun and joy in meetings.
Today you can find piñatas of all shapes and colors; even specific themes such as superheroes and Disney characters.
The three versions of the origin of the piñata
The piñata in Aztec celebrations
The Aztecs used clay pots as piñata; they decorated them with feathers and other small ornaments. They did this to celebrate the birth of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. This element was broken with a stick by dropping the treasures as an offering at the feet of the deity.
Origin of the piñata in the Mayan civilization
Another version about the origin of the piñata comes from the Mayan civilization, who, it is said, played a very particular game in their celebrations. This pastime consisted of hanging a clay pot full of cocoa from a rope and trying to break it blindfolded.
Marco Polo’s travels
The famous Italian traveler and merchant Marco Polo in one of his adventures in Asia saw how during the Chinese New Year celebrations the figure of an ox full of seeds was broken. This fact caught his attention and he decided to take the tradition to Italy, where it was adopted to commemorate Lent.
This tradition finally reached Spain, where it took on a new meaning. The best-known version is attributed to the Spanish since they brought the piñatas with them when they arrived on the American continent.
Tradition and religious symbolism of the piñata
Spanish evangelizers used piñatas to hasten the conversion of the Aztecs to Christianity. They transformed the ceremony with the clay pot into a religious ritual, where each element served as a metaphor for good and evil.
They took the pot and decorated it with colored paper, in order to give it a more striking appearance. In addition, before hitting the piñata, they had to turn 33 times, which represented the 33 years of Christ’s life.
The traditional seven-spike piñata symbolized the seven deadly sins: gluttony, lust, laziness, anger, envy, pride, and greed.
The blindfold represents blind faith and hitting the piñata with the stick means the virtue or strength you need to overcome sins.
When this object breaks and falls to pieces it is as if you have defeated evil and the candy or fruit that falls is heaven’s reward for this.
Today the piñata is just a symbol of fun and entertainment for the celebrations in which it is used. Furthermore, it is a tradition that has captured the hearts of Latin America and the world.
Acolman, land of piñatas
This place in the State of Mexico carries the tradition of piñatas in its blood, as it presumes to be the origin of both piñatas and posadas.
Here is the statue of Fray Diego de Soria breaking one, who was the friar who popularized this tradition during the Christmas holidays.
As piñatas are already sold in all parts of Mexico, in Acolman there is only a small workshop dedicated all year to enhance this tradition. However, this is not a cause for concern for the residents, as the markets and streets are full of these colorful objects, so it is expected to continue to be one of the main turns in the local economy.
How to make a piñata?
- A big balloon
- Liquid glue
- Crepe paper and china paper of different colors
- Seven cards (they can be white or of different colors)
- A small brush
Steps to follow
- Boil water with flour and liquid glue in a pot until it reaches a thick consistency, the resulting mixture is known as paste
- Inflate the balloon to the size you want the piñata
- Cut the newspaper into long strips and relatively wide
- Take a string and hang the balloon from some static surface
- Take a little paste with the brush and spread it on the surface of the balloon. After this, put the newspaper strips on it, taking care that the upper part of it is not covered. A small hole should be left to introduce the sweets and the fruit of the piñata
- When the balloon is covered, let it dry a little and repeat the same procedure until making several layers of newspaper
- When you have a thick layer of newspaper strips, let it dry for a couple of days to proceed to pop the balloon
- Once dry, you must make some holes to put a string from which you will hang your piñata
- Then you have to line the resulting sphere with crepe paper and china paper to taste
- Cones will be made with the cards to stick them on the surface of the sphere. You can decorate the cards with the same crepe paper or china paper
- At the end you should dry it well to fill it with the content of your preference
If you want to know more Mexican traditions, you have to watch the following video:
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