Make a Piñata Navideña (Christmas Piñata)
Although the piñata is mostly associated with Mexican culture, children's birthday parties and Christmas celebration, it has a long and fascinating history.
Piñatas are actually thought to have originated in China. They are made of paper-mâché and China is where paper originated. It is believed that Marco Polo first saw paper animal figures covered with colorful paper and filled with seeds in China. As part of a ritual, the paper containers would be struck with a stick, releasing the seeds. Then, the paper figures would be burned and the ashes gathered up for good luck.
Polo is thought to have taken the idea back to Italy, where it was later associated with Lent. By the 14th century it was called pignatta or "fragile pot" in Italian. This custom later made it's way to Spain, where they used a clay pot instead.
This pot was called la olla, derived from an Arabic word for terracotta water jug. The jug was wrapped with colorful paper and ribbon to make it festive.
Aztecs had a tradition where they honored Huitzilopochtli, their god of war, by breaking a filled pot with a stick as an offering. Missionaries introduced the Spanish tradition to the Aztecs to counter this ritual. The clay pots the missionaries used were decorated colorfully and had seven points to represent the seven deadly sins: greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath, and lust. The piñata was filled with sweet treats that represented the pleasures of life. The stick of virtue would be used to defeat the evil of those seven sins and thereby bring forth the reward of sweets when wielded in faith.
Although the piñata has come to be associated with Christmas in Mexico, in Spain it is associated more closely with the first Sunday of Lent (Piñata Sunday). However, it's worldwide popularity has led to a renewed popularity of it in Spain.
Making a piñata is a fun craft that the whole family can enjoy (both making and destroying). There is even a song that some people sing when they break it:
The following tutorial shows how to make a piñata.
crepe paper/rice paper/Mylar paper
yarn or thin rope
After making your piñata, fill it with treats, then tie a rope to it. Hang the piñata from the ceiling or a tree branch. Participants should be blindfolded and then given a stick to take turns hitting it. Typically, the person holding the rope that the piñata is attached to pulls on it to make the piñata more challenging for the blindfolded person to hit.