First a confession:
Not familiar with the tradition I was quite surprised (to say the least) when my children attended a party where a piñata was battered mercilessly before a horde of kids jumped on all the candy falling out of it. Ever since I haven't been a big fan and -quite frankly- just didn't get why anyone would do this...
So discovering this very cute video of a little boy who couldn't bring himself to hit the piñata and ending up hugging it instead I felt myself confirmed. However, it also made me look into what this whole tradition is about. And -like many times in life- I learnt the lesson of not judging too early and to keep an open mind instead -especially when it comes to other cultures' traditions. This one is very interesting...
A piñata is a container often made of papier-mâché, pottery, or cloth; it is decorated, and filled with small toys or candy, or both, and then broken as part of a ceremony or celebration. Piñatas are commonly associated with Mexico.
The origin of the piñata however is thought to date back over 700 years ago to Asia!
Marco Polo discovered the Chinese fashioning figures of cows, oxen or even buffaloes, covering them with colored paper and adorning them with harnesses and trappings to greet the New Year. When they knocked the figure hard with sticks of various colors, seeds spilled forth. The remains were then burned and people gathered the ashes to bring good luck throughout the year.
When the custom passed into Mexico via Europe in the 14th century, it was adapted to the celebration of Lent. This is also when the name, from the Italian pignatta, was introduced. (‘pignatta’ means “fragile pot”)
It is important however to state here that some sources claim the indigenous peoples already had a similar tradition. 'To celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli (now try to repeat this name loud and three times at least!), priests placed a clay pot on a pole in the temple at year’s end. Colorful feathers adorned the richly decorated pot, filled with tiny treasures. When it was broken with a stick or club, the treasures fell to the feet of the god’s image as an offering. The Mayans, great lovers of sport, also played a game where the player’s eyes were covered while hitting a clay pot suspended by string.'
The missionaries ingeniously transformed these games for religious instruction. They covered the traditional pot with colored paper, giving it an extraordinary, perhaps fearful appearance.
The original & traditional piñata has seven points
symbolizing the seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, anger/wrath, and pride.
The ten pointed piñata symbolizes the sins that come from breaking the Ten Commandments.
The stick which is used to break the pinata represents and symbolizes love.
It is supposed to destroy the sins by hitting and breaking the pinata into pieces. The candies and treats that come pouring out from the broken piñata symbolize the forgiveness of sins and a new beginning.
Now doesn't this all make so much more sense now!?
Nowadays no Mexican fiesta is complete without a piñata, honoring a tradition that is over 700 years old!
I think this is a very interesting tradition and am embarrassed about my prejudice...
What do you think? Are you Mexican or always celebrate with a piñata anyways? Do you have your own interesting tradition which others might not know/understand?