History and Ancient Origin of Pinata
people think of piñatas today as a fun activity for parties.
Children love them. The history of the piñata is fascinating
and reveals many interesting facts about piñatas that go beyond
the playing of a game, though piñatas certainly have always
been intended for fun.
may have originated in China. Marco Polo discovered the Chinese
fashioning figures of cows, oxen or buffaloes, covered with
colored paper and adorned with harnesses and trappings. Special
colors traditionally greeted the New Year. When the mandarins
knocked the figure hard with sticks of various colors, seeds
spilled forth. After burning the remains, people gathered the
ashes for good luck throughout the year.
custom passed into Europe in the 14th century, it adapted to the
celebrations of Lent. The first Sunday became ‘Piñata
Sunday’. The Italian word ‘pignatta’ means
"fragile pot." Originally, piñatas fashioned
without a base resembled clay containers for carrying water.
Some say this is the origin of the traditional pineapple shape.
Also the Latin prefix ‘piña’ implies a cluster of
flowers or fruits as in ‘pineapples’ and ‘pine cones’.
custom spread to Spain, the first Sunday in Lent became a fiesta
called the ‘Dance of the Piñata’. The Spanish used a clay
container called la olla, the Spanish word for pot. At
first, la olla was not decorated. Later, ribbons, tinsel
and fringed paper were added and wrapped around the pot.
beginning of the 16th century the Spanish missionaries to North
America used the piñata to attract converts to their
ceremonies. However indigenous peoples already had a similar
tradition. To celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war,
Huitzilopochtli, 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 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 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.
How to make a Pinata