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Piñatas! – September celebrations! 30 favorite things about Mexico

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Piñatas!! In Mexico a piñata accompanies almost every fiesta, holiday or birthday celebration. A piñata is made of papier-mâché, with a clay pot or olla de barro on the inside filled with toys, fruit and candy.  It is suspended from above and moved around while blindfolded children and (sometimes for stress relief, adults!) are spun around as they try hitting it with a stick in order to break it apart for all the goodies inside as part of a ceremony or celebration.

Piñatas were brought to Mexico from Europe in the 16th century, however, traditionally the Aztecs had a similar ritual to honor the birthday of the god Huitzilopochtli in mid December. Aztec priests would place a clay pot decorated with colorful feathers and when broken with a stick or club, the treasures inside would fall to the feet of the idol as an offering. The Mayan tradition was similar to the modern piñata tradition, complete with blindfolding the person hitting the piñata.

The Mexican Catholic Church’s interpretation of the piñata rested on the struggle of man against temptation. The original, traditional shape of the piñata, is a seven pointed star to represent the seven deadly sins. The clay pot represents evil and the seasonal fruit and candy inside the temptations of evil. The person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith. The spinning, singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates. These interpretations were given to the piñata for Christian purposes. As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil. When the piñata breaks, the treats inside then represent the rewards of keeping the faith. According to local records, the piñata was first used for evangelistic purposes in 1586, in Acolman just north of Mexico City. The Augustinian monks there modified European piñatas, along with creating the December Posada tradition to co-opt the celebration of the birth of the god Huitzilopochtli, which was celebrated in mid December. Nowadays, Acolman hosts an annual National Piñata Fair.

Today, the piñata is still part of Mexican culture as well as the cultures of other countries in Latin America and  the United States, but it has mostly lost its religious character and has become popular to use in many types of celebrations.

Piñatas today come in all shapes and sizes: animals, plants, flowers and devils  with many modern ones representing cartoon or other characters known to most children. Popular shapes today can include Batman, Superman, Spiderman or characters based on popular movies and television shows such as Nemo, the Lion King and more. For the Christmas posada the traditional style with the 7 pointed star is popular as it is associated with the Star of Bethlehem.

The art of making  piñatas falls under the Mexican craft heading of “cartonería”, which refers to the making of items from paper and cardboard. The Museo de Artes Populares /  Popular Art Museum in Mexico works hard to maintain Mexico’s popular traditions and this year is celebrating the 5th Annual Mexican Piñatas Contest, inviting artisans and artists from Mexico and foreign residents  to participate by  creating a piñata of any size, shape or theme while respecting the traditional materials of the clay pots and colorful paper. The use of plastic or metal is now allowed and all the decoration must be handcrafted.

Piñatas are fun and full of history…. around the piñata the children sing:

Dale, dale, dale,

No pierdas el tino

Porque si lo pierdes

pierdes el camino.

 

Hit it, hit it, hit it,

Don’t loose your aim.

’cause if you lose it

you’ll loose your way!

Don’t forget your blindfold.

During September, LivePuntaMita.com will be sharing with you 30 things we love most about Mexico, in honor of this month’s Independence celebrations. Click here to view the complete list.

 


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