La Piñata: Origins and an HHS Tradition

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Natalie Wright, Staff Writer

If you’re ready to get your Mexican on but don’t want to eat the delicious food for obvious reasons, I have a solution. You can make a piñata! All it takes is patience and time. There are different types of piñatas you can make, too. For instance, throughout the years  HHS Spanish I & II teacher Patricia Cunningham (Maestra) has seen an array of piñatas over the 20 years she has been teaching students how to make them. 

“A spectacular piano, the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, my doggy, and so many more pretty ones throughout the years,” stated Maestra. She has her students make piñatas because she learns more about students’ behavior, habits, and ethics.  Maestra learns more about her students from this project than any other time throughout the school year. Making a piñata also helps with the preservation of Latin culture and tradition. 

There are a variety of ways to create piñatas.  Here are a few websites for ideas and steps:

https://www.donquijote.org/mexican-culture/traditions/pinata/

https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-make-a-pintildeata

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-make-a-pinata-1252616

History

The piñata is thought to have originated over 700 years ago in Asia to welcome the New Year. Seeds came out instead of candy, and they burned the remains of the piñata before gathering its ashes to bring them good luck in the new year.

Once piñatas reached Europe in the 14th century, they were fashioned without a base and resembled clay containers used for carrying water.  In Spain, the first Sunday in Lent became a fiesta called the “Dance of the Piñata.” Clay containers, called “las ollas,” were later decorated with  ribbons, tinsel, and fringed paper.

About the same time, people in the Americas already had a similar tradition. Aztecs celebrated Huitzilopochtli’s birthday by placing heavily decorated piñatas filled with tiny treasures in his temple. When the piñatas were broken with a stick or club, the treasures fell to the feet of the god’s image as an offering. The Mayans used piñatas in a game where the player was blindfolded while hitting a clay pot suspended by string.

Today’s version of the piñata traditionally has seven points symbolizing the seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath, and pride. The stick which is used to break the piñata represents and symbolizes love. It is supposed to destroy the sins by hitting and breaking the piñata into pieces. The candies and treats that come pouring out from the broken piñata symbolize the forgiveness of sins and a new beginning.