A piñata is a container which is decorated and filled with sweets, toys or seasonal fruit. It is often in the shape of a star, animal or popular film character. The piñata has become a symbol of Mexico. However, it actually has Chinese origins: the explorer Marco Polo brought the Chinese tradition to Europe and it was evangelisation which brought the tradition to America.
Towards the end of the 1500s, Diego de Soria got authorisation to carry out Christian masses during the eight days before Christmas, with the intention of spreading the Catholic religion among the natives of the State of Mexico. The piñata was a part of this religious mass, often filled with fruits. By trying to break it with a wooden pole, the person was considered free of sin if they managed to break it open. The piñatas took the shape of a star. Piñatas became very popular and went from something done within the church to in the streets.
When I lived in Cádiz, I lived above a restaurant. One night I heard people having a great time outside my window. I looked outside to discover that they were hitting a piñata!
In the UK, piñatas often take the form of a donkey, which is filled with sweets. I think this represents a cruel image and I think that piñatas should take other forms such as different shapes and not animals.
The history of the piñata is really interesting and it has been fascinating learning about its origins. I hope to learn more about similar traditions of other countries, too.
Have you ever seen a piñata?