The Sport of A Piñata Party

pinataOne of the common party supplies used in Cinco de Mayo celebrations is a piñata. The sport of breaking a piñata that has been filled with small toys or candy is also popular at children’s birthday parties. And recently a customer called looking for one that her college-aged son wanted at his graduation party. The entertainment in having a piñata comes from watching blindfolded participants take turns swatting a stick or bat at a suspended piñata filled with candies or small prizes. The art is in keeping the piñata at bay so each participant lands only a few strikes and the piñata remains unbroken so that all participants have at least one turn before the final crack that sends a trail of prizes and candies to the ground. Since I knew the piñata to be associated with Cinco de Mayo, I assumed it was a Mexican tradition. However, in doing a little research I discovered that some historians believe its origins go back to the 14th Century in Europe while others believe it originated in China. Early traditions involved using a clay pot rather than the papier-mâché designs that are popular today. The Chinese tradition was associated with New Year and involved a container in the shape of a cow or oxen decorated in bright colors to symbolize a productive growing season.  After the container, often filled with seeds, was burst, the remains were burned and the ashes stored for good luck. The European tradition was associated with a Lenten celebration and was brought to Mexico in the 16th Century. When introduced in Mexico it was said to represent the struggle between man against temptation. Beating the piñata was symbolic of man’s struggle against temptation and evil.  Having lost its religious association, today the piñata is a popular party activity, especially at Cinco de Mayo and birthday parties. A large selection of piñatas in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes ranging from butterflies and race cars to rainbows and zoo animals, horses, and superheroes are available to complement a themed-party.

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