Wednesday, February 2, 2011

History of the Pinata

Party pinatas are very popular games at children’s birthday parties. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors so that they can match the theme of the child’s birthday party. Every kid looks forward to hitting the pinata, and they all want to be the one who knocks it open. When it does break open, they can hardly wait to rush in and grab the treats. What kids probably don’t think about is where the pinata comes from. Where did it originate, and how did it become the popular party game it is today?

Where Does the Pinata Come From?

Party piñatas originated in China when Marco Polo discovered how to make figures of cows, oxen, and buffalo. He would cover the figures in colorful paper. To welcome in the New Year, people would fill piñatas with seeds and knock the figures with colorful sticks. Traditionally, collecting the seeds and burning them would bring people good luck.

As the pinatas moved to other cultures, it became a religious symbol.

• Europeans began using pinatas in the 14th century to celebrate Lent.

• Spain adopted the tradition as a celebration for Lent, as well.

• Settlers to North America brought the tradition with them.

Historical Confusion

In Aztec civilization, the indigenous people used a similar tradition to celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war. At the year’s end, priests would place a clay pot on a pole in the temple and cover it with colorful feathers. They would fill the pot with small treasures that would fall to the ground when people struck the pot with small sticks at the birthday celebration. Many people mistakenly believe pinatas derived from this tradition.

Modern-Day Uses for Pinatas

Somewhere in history, the religious symbolism connected with the pinata faded. Now, people most often use pinatas as games at birthday parties. Although this is a popular use, it is not the only one. People also use pinatas to create excitement and fun at other celebrations, such as Halloween parties, weddings, and even in business meetings.

The history of the pinata is long and colorful. If you thought it originated in Mexico, you now know it’s actually a Chinese custom that had a deep religious aspect. This is a great opportunity to educate your kids while allowing them to be deliciously destructive.

A big thank you to Janice for sharing the wonderful article on the History of the Pinata!

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Anonymous said...

My grandson loved his...i didn't go buy one due to not having much money...but instead i made him one. He had more fun helping make it i think than he did busting it open....naw...he had more fun hitting

Anonymous said...

Pinatas and the traditions surrounding them come from Mexico and not China.

Sammie said...

Hi anonymous. I guess it depends on the research you conduct:

"Though the Spanish origin of piñatas is largely undisputed among historians, some evidence also points to China as the original root of the piñata custom."