Christmas Piñatas are a Mexican tradition. In every Mexican neighborhood, there is a housewife every couple of blocks who supplements her income year-round by making all sizes, shapes and designs of piñatas.
While some modern piñatas look like Shrek, Sleeping Beauty, Superman, Christmas trees, snowmen, poinsettias, angels, Santa and even the devil, the most traditional design for Christmas is a Sputnik-like sphere with from five-to-seven points with dangling tassels.
The piñata originated in China and traveled the trade routes to Italy where it was called la pignatta (cooking pot). The Franciscan missionaries carried the tradition of the simple clay jar disguised with colorful paper to the new world and used it to demonstrate a morality lesson.
The Piñata is symbolic of many things:
- According to the Franciscans, the clay jar represents Satan, who often wears an attractively decorated disguise to attract humans and to mask his intentions.
- The seven points of the star-shaped Christmas piñata represent the seven deadly sins.
- The candy in the piñata’s inner clay pot stands for the pleasures Satan offers man to attract him to the underworld.
- The blindfolded person represents blind faith, which is guided only by the voices of others to destroy evil. *
- The stick used to break the piñata is a symbol of Christian goodness.
- The breaking of the piñata symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
- The shower of candy and fruit is indicative of the unknown joys and rewards that the good and faithful will receive in Heaven.
The filled piñata is hooked high above the street or garden into a system of ropes and pulleys so that the playful adult can make the piñata swing low until it scrapes the street. Just as the blindfolded child stumbles over the piñata at his/her feet and takes a mighty swing, the rope is jerked and the piñata suddenly dangles high overhead. Meanwhile, the crowd shouts directions using the names of villages to the east and west, and sings “Dale, Dale, Dale,” the traditional piñata song.
It takes at least three piñatas at any event. The tiny tots battle the first piñata, unblindfolded. Succeeding piñatas are for the bigger girls, and then for the boys.
Holiday traditions in Mexico still focus on family and being together, instead of incredible gifts, cuisine and décor. One way is not more right than the other—they’re just different! What a joy to experience both.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of our Expats In Mexico readers!