[pi'ɲata]) is a papier-mâché or other type of container that is decorated, filled with toys and or candy and then broken as part of a ceremony or celebration. Piñatas are most commonly associated with Mexico, but is origins are commonly considered to be in China. The idea of breaking a container filled with treats came to Europe in the 14th century, where the name, from the Italian “pignatta” was introduced. The Spanish brought the European tradition to Mexico, although there were similar traditions in Mesoamerica.
In Denmark is slå katten af tønden ("hit the cat out of the barrel") in which a wooden barrel is struck to release candy.
In South Indian villages, festivals feature a competition called Uri adithal (Pot breaking with blindfold) which closely resembles the piñata event.
In the Philippines, a similar game called hampas-palayok (pot-hitting) is played during Filipino fiestas and traditional parties (i.e., birthdays), in which a clay pot filled with treats and/or prizes is used.
In addition to having a chance to purchase a one of a kind Portland made Piñata you may also get a chance to make your own!
So check back for classes and for sale Piñatas!
Designs to look forward too!
The slå katten af tønden/ Basically a barrel Piñata with a meow
The Mr. Death Piñata/Grim reaper tribute to Monty Python
What else were you expecting?
The Velvet Underground/
Andy Warhol Banana Piñata
The Day of the Dead /Día de los Muertos Suger Skull Piñata
Large eyed doll Piñatas
Plus many more!
HistoryThere is some debate but it appears that its origin is not Mexican but rather Chinese. The Chinese version was in the shape of a cow or ox and used for the New Year. It was decorated with symbols and colors meant to produce a favorable climate for the coming growing season. It was filled with five types of seeds and then hit with sticks of various colors. After the piñata was broken, the remains were burned and the ashes kept for good luck.
Piñatas arrived to Europe in the 14th century where they were adapted to the celebrations of Lent. The first Sunday of Lent became "Piñata Sunday".
In Spain, this festival was called the Dance of the Piñata, and used a clay pot, which initially was not decorated. Later ribbons, tinsel, and colored paper were added. The word "piñata" most likely comes from the Italian word "pignatta" which means "fragile pot" as the European version used the clay containers used for carrying water. However, the word has also been linked to pineapples ("piña" in Spanish) as well as the Latin prefix "piña" which means a cluster of flowers or fruits.
The European piñata tradition was brought to Mexico in the 16th century; however, there was a similar tradition in Mesoamerica already. The Mayan tradition was similar to the modern piñata tradition, complete the blindfolding the participant hitting the piñata. The Aztec tradition commemorated the birthday of Huitzilopochtli. Priests would place a clay pot decorated with colorful feathers. When broken with a stick or club, the treasures inside would fall to the feet of the idol as an offering.
According to local records, the piñata was first used for evangelism purposes in 1586, in Acolman, in modern State of Mexico, just north of Mexico City. The Augustinian monks there modified European piñatas, along with creation of the Las Posadas tradition to co-opt the celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, which was celebrated in mid December.
The Mexican Catholic interpretation of the piñata rested on the struggle of man against temptation. The seven points represent the seven deadly sins. The pot represents evil and the seasonal fruit and candy inside the temptations of evil. The person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith. The turning and the singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates. In some traditions, the participant is turned thirty three times, one for each year of Christ's life. These interpretations were given to the piñata for catechism purposes. As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil. When the piñata breaks, the treats inside then represent the rewards of keeping the faith.
However, since this time the piñata has all but lost its religious significance and has become popular to use in many types of celebrations, not just during December's Las Posadas. The clay pot has since been substituted by a papier-mâché cavity. The creation of piñatas has even taken on an artistic aspect in some areas. David Gamez and Cecilia Meade sponsored a showing of piñatas as art rather than just as a party favor. The event was called Piñatarama, with 25 piñatas made of papier-mâché at the Vértigo Galería in Mexico City.
Piñatas in Mexico
Candy Babel is currently looking for a teacher to lead in store workshop on how to make traditional piñatas, as part of its outreach program for the public. Check back for sign up dates!
While the religious significance has been mostly lost, the ceremony that occurs with it has remained mostly intact. Piñatas remain most popular during Las Posadas with birthday parties coming in second. Each participant, usually a child, will have a turn at hitting the piñata, which is hung from above on a string. The participant is blindfolded, given a wooden stick and then spun a number of times. As the participants works to hit the piñata, another moves it to make it harder to hit. There is a time limit to any one person's attempts, which is marked out by the singing of a traditional song.
Piñatas were traditionally made with a clay pot base and many artisans make a living selling just the pot for people to decorate as they wish. However, clay pot piñatas have mostly been replaced by those made with cardboard and paper mache, usually fashioned over balloons. One reason for this is that broken pot pieces can be dangerous to children. These are then decorated with crepe paper, other colored paper and other items.
Piñatas today come in all shapes and sizes, with many representing cartoon or other characters known to most children. Popular shapes today can include Batman, Superman, Spiderman or characters based on popular movies and television shows such as Nemo, the Lion King and more. For Christmas, the traditional style with the points is popular as it is associated with the Star of Bethlehem. However, for the most part, piñata designs have been completely commercialized.
There are a number of localities in Mexico that specialize in the making of piñatas for sale. Acolman, the origin of piñatas, along with neighboring Otumba are one. Acolman hosts an annual National Piñata Fair. This event includes cultural events, workshops on the making of piñatas, piñata contests and traditional Posadas. The event has attracted as many as 100,000 visitors over the days that it is held, many of whom come from Mexico City.
About 400 families in the town of San Juan de la Puerta, in the south of the Cuerámaro municipality in Guanajuato, are dedicated to the creation of piñatas, and produce about 16,000 pieces each month. The making of piñatas supports about half of the people in the town. It is the second most important economic activity after agriculture. This tradition began in 1960 by Juan Remigio Anguiano, who brought the craft to the town after living in Mexico City. Today, piñatas from the town are sold in various parts of the state.
One niche market for piñatas in Mexico is of those themed for adults. These include political figures, especially those who are not particularly liked. Another type for the adult market are sexually-themed piñatas, mostly those in the form of exotic dancers and strippers. Of the female of this type, the most popular are blondes. For the male, darker shades are preferred. These piñatas will be filled with adult items such as condoms in addition to candy.