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History of the Piñata in Mexico

The Piñata is associated with Christmas, birthdays and fiestas in Mexico.

 

The Piñata - history

The piñata custom originated in Spain and was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors at the beginning of the 16th century. The Spanish missionaries used the piñata as a tool to attract converts to their ceremonies. They found that the Mexican Indians already had a similar tradition for the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli. The priests placed a clay pot on a pole in the temple at year's end and decorated it with feathers. When broken with a stick or club, the treasures would fall to the feet of the god's image as an offering. The Mayans were enthusiastic sportsmen and they played a game where the player was blindfolded while he tried to hit a clay pot suspended by string. The missionaries transformed these games in order to attract converts to their religion. The traditional pot was covered with colored paper and used as a representation of the devil. Some piñatas are made with seven points which are said to represent the seven deadly sins.

The Piñata - tradition

The piñata is one of the many traditions typical of Mexico. A piñata is a clay pot filled with sweets, fruit and confetti, which is decorated with ribbons, tinsel and coloured paper. Mexican children love piñatas as they associate them with Christmas, birthdays and fiestas. A rope is thrown over a suitable branch or beam and it is then tied to the piñata. An adult or older child pulls the rope up and down while a child wearing a blindfold tries to break the piñata with a stick, thus letting the sweets fall to the ground. The children take it in turns, while the rest of the group clap and chant the piñata song:

“Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino,
Porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino.”

Hit it, hit it, hit it, don’t let your aim go astray,
Because if you lose it, you lose your way.

Whenever the piñata is broken open, a horde of children rush in to gather up the sweets and fruit which lie scattered over the ground. Care has to be taken as it can become a free for all. At Christmas a couple of years ago the Mexican President, Vicente Fox ceremonially opened a piñata in front of a group of disadvantaged children and when they saw the sweets falling they rushed in causing him to slip and fall in the resulting melee.

Piñatas can be bought in Mexican markets or specialist shops known as Piñaterías.


 

 

 

 

 


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NB: Piñata is spelt with an ñ rather than an n and is pronounced pea-nya-ta. It is often incorrectly spelled as pinata. (ñ is a seperate letter in Spanish)


Juan takes his turn with the piñata

Juan attempts to break open the piñata

Oscar takes his turn with the piñata

Oscar takes his turn

 

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