Piñatas: Swing Hard at the Most Mexican of Traditions
Whether made of cardboard or clay, piñatas are nearly always brightly colored and tend to be essential to celebrations. Kids and adults alike succumb to the temptation of leaping for their contents: from typical seasonal fruit to candies and toys, though the possibilities of what you can find now seem unlimited. But, where does this tradition, so popular in Mexico, come from?
Although it is often said that they are originally from China and that Marco Polo took them to Italy and then Spain, evidence has been found showing that the Mexica used something similar to celebrate the god Huitzilopochtli.
The Spanish missionaries are thought to have used piñatas as an evangelization tool in the New World. They were made with a clay pot that was fashioned into a star with seven points, representing the seven deadly sins. The candies and fruit they were filled with stood for the treasures of the kingdom of the heavens, and last of all, the bright colors adorning them symbolized temptation.
Once strung up, the piñata moves up and down and sways from side to side, with the help of a rope. The goal was (and still is) to break it with a stick, an action that represented the destruction of temptation and the sins.
Every year, the Piñata Fair is held in Acolman, Mexico State, where, they claim, the very first piñata as we know it today was made. In 2016, the fair will be between December 16 and 20.
Nowadays considered one of Mexico’s handicrafts, piñatas are found in just about every market throughout the country, as well as in other cities around the globe.