When it comes to having a good time, what could be more fun than being rewarded with sweets or toys after destroying a toy animal or other figure with a stick? That’s why Pinãtas are the perfect party pieces for restless kids!
Where did piñatas come from?
Although most of us would associate pinãtas with Mexico, and their traditional use in Mexican festivals, it is thought that they may have originated in China. Whatever the origin, they are known to have first appeared in Europe in the 14th century, and they were called ‘piñata’ in Italy, meaning ‘pot’. From Europe, and in particular Spain, they were taken to Mexico when the Spanish conquered the country in the 16th century.
Piñatas were made in many forms – animals were popular, but so were seven-pointed stars. The points were said to represent the seven deadly sins, the pot or figure represents evil and the person who wields the stick, usually blindfolded, representing faith, which conquers evil. The sweets or seasonal fruit contained inside the piñata were supposed to represent the temptations of evil. The remains of the piñata were then burnt and the ashes scattered. Incidentally, the little curly line above the ’n’ in piñata is a Spanish symbol, called a ‘tilde’. It indicates that the ’n’ should be pronounced with an added ‘y’ sound, as in ‘canyon’.
Mexican piñatas have, over the centuries, had a variety of fillings. These days, at children’s parties, we would fill them with small sweets or cakes, or gifts that we could also see in a Christmas cracker. But piñatas in Mexico had a religious significance in festivals and were traditionally made of clay, which took a lot of bashing to break, unlike today’s paper or papiér maché constructions. Mostly, Mexican piñatas were filled with candied fruit or sugar cane, but others, known as traps, contained flour, confetti or just water.
Today, we can buy piñatas in various shapes and themes, from Disney characters to fire engines and dinosaurs, and fill them with a huge selection of sweets and toys. Some parents do worry, rightly, about their children’s sugar consumption, and there is a large variety of tooth-friendly, healthy and tasty snacks to fill a piñata.
How to do it
Even a toddler can play with or tackle a piñata, with a colorful burster. However, it is even more fun if players are blindfolded when trying to burst the piñata. Well, it may not seem fun for the child but it is great fun for everyone else in the room watching as they miss the piñata completely and their momentum lands them on their bottom.
To make the process even more dramatic, give the child three swings to burst the piñata, or have the rest of the room count down from 30 seconds. Whatever happens, there will be sweets and treats for all to enjoy.
Bursting a piñata is a real spectacle, so you should make it the centerpiece of any birthday party or celebration.
Emma Gear is a part time DJ, entertainment blogger and sales assistant at The Partyman Shop, the one stop party supplies stop. When Emma’s not spinning records or typing away at her keyboard, she enjoys going to gigs and partying.