¡Yo lo que quiero es romper la piñata!
I don’t want gold. I don’t want silver.
All I want is to break the piñata!
--Traditional piñata chant
Investigate the history and significance of the pinata. Make a pinata out of cardboard and colorful crepe paper or make it out of papier-mache using an inflated balloon as the form. Decorate the pinata in bright colors or shape it into the form of an animal or other shape associated with the holiday. Remember to leave an opening for candy or prizes. Once the pinata is ready, hang it from a rope or heavy string. Each person then takes a turn hitting the pinata with a stick while blindfolded. When the pinata breaks, the participants dash for the candy or prizes that have fallen to the ground/floor. Teach the children nursery rhymes like "Tortillitas para Mama" ("Little Tortillas for Mother") and "Rima de Chocolate" (Chocolate Rhyme"). Play games such as "A la Vibora" ("To the Viper"), the Mexican version of "London Bridge Is Falling Down."
Sites with directions on how to make a piñata
SYMBOLISM OF THE PIÑATA
The decorated clay pot also called a cantero represents Satan who often wears an attractive mask to attract humanity. The most traditional style piñata looks a bit like Sputnik, with seven points, each with streamers. These cones represent the seven deadly sins, pecados - greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath and lust. Beautiful and bright, the piñata tempted. Candies and fruits inside represented the cantaros (temptations)of wealth and earthly pleasures. Thus, the piñata reflected three theological virtues in the catequismo. (religious instruction or catechism)
The blindfolded participant represents the leading force in defying evil, ‘Fe’, faith, which must be blind. People gathered near the player and spun him around to confuse his sense of space. Sometimes the turns numbered thirty three in memory of the life of Christ. The voices of others cry out guidance:
¡Más arriba! More upwards! ¡Abajo! Lower! ¡Enfrente! In front!
Some call out engaños (deceits, or false directions) to disorient the hitter. Secondly the piñata served as a symbol of ‘Esperanza’, Hope. With the piñata hanging above their heads, people watched towards los cielos (sky or heaven) yearning and waiting for the prize. The stick for breaking the piñata symbolized virtue, as only good can overcome evil. It is also thought to represent Satan’s attempt to prevent the Christ Child from being born. Once broken, the candies and fruits represented the just reward for keeping faith, as well as the triumph of good over evil, as the Child was born.
Finally the piñata symbolized ‘Caridad’, Charity. With its eventual breaking, everyone shared in the divine blessings and gifts.
The moral of the piñata: all are justified through faith.
Today, the piñata has lost its religious symbolism and most participate in the game solely for fun. Piñatas are especially popular during Las Posadas, traditional processions ringing in the Christmas season and at birthday parties. During festivities, people traditionally sing songs while breaking the piñatas.
“Dale, dale, dale, no perdas el tino, porque si lo perdes, pierdes el camino. Esta piñata es de muchas mañas, sólo contiene naranjas y cañas.”
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.”
Another popular song for hitting the piñata is rooted in the year 1557 when dignitaries of Felipe II toured towns in New Spain. While exacting pledges of allegiance, coins of nickel were offered for coins of silver. This failed to please the people so as they break piñatas during las posadas, they sing:
"No quiero níquel ni quiero plata: yo lo que quiero es romper la piñata." “I don’t want nickel/I don’t want silver I only want to break the piñata…”
Piñatas can be found in all shapes and sizes. Modern ones often represent cartoon or other characters known to most children. Others are shaped like fruits, baskets, rockets etc. Sometimes people of political statue are satirized. At Christmas, star-shaped piñatas suggestive of the Star of Bethlehem are especially popular. One’s imagination is the creative limit.
Traditionally, piñatas are filled with both candies and fruits. Around Christmas in Mexico, wrapped candies, peanuts, guavas, oranges, jicamas(a sweet root vegetable), sugar cane, and tejocotes (a kind of crab apple) stuff piñatas. Some types of piñatas called traps, are stuffed with flour, confetti or ‘flowery water’. Any child without a treat after the goodies are gathered from the ground is given a little basket full of special candy. These colaciónes are kept on hand to avoid hurt feelings and tears. The rest of the treats are passed around to everyone before the party is over.
HISTORY OF THE PINATA