First Birthday Pinatas
Some history of the piñata: Most people think of piñatas as a fun activity for parties. The history of the piñata reveals many interesting facts that go beyond the playing of a game, although piñatas certainly have been intended for fun. Piñatas may have originated in China. Marco Polo discovered the Chinese fashioning figures of cows, oxen, or buffalo covered with colored paper and adorned with harnesses and trappings. Special colors traditionally greeted the New Year. When the Mandarins knocked the figure hard with sticks of various colors, seeds spilled forth. After burning the remains, people gathered the ashes for good luck throughout the year. When the custom spread to Spain, the first Sunday of Lent became a fiesta called the ‘Dance of the Piñata’. The Spanish used a clay container called la olla, the Spanish word for pot. At first, la olla was not decorated; later, ribbons, tinsel, and fringed paper were added and wrapped around the pot. Today, the piñata has lost its religious symbolism and most participate in the game solely for fun.
Piñatas are especially popular during Las Posadas, traditional processions ringing in the Christmas season, and at birthday parties. During festivities, people traditionally sing songs while breaking the piñatas. Piñatas can be found in all shapes and sizes. Modern ones often represent cartoon or other characters known to most children. Others are shaped like fruits, baskets, rockets, etc. Sometimes people of political stature are satirized. At Christmas, star-shaped piñatas, suggestive of the Star of Bethlehem, are especially popular. One’s imagination is the creative limit. Traditionally, piñatas are filled with both candies and fruits. Around Christmas in Mexico, wrapped candies, peanuts, guavas, oranges, jicamas (a sweet root vegetable), sugar cane, and tejocotes (a kind of crab apple) stuff piñatas. Some types of piñatas, called traps, are stuffed with flour, confetti, or ‘flowery water’.
One final note, any child without a treat after the goodies are gathered from the ground should be given a little basket full of special candy. These colaciónes are kept on hand to avoid hurt feelings and tears. The rest of the treats are passed around to everyone before the party is over.