Thursday, October 2, 2008

Piñata Time!


What’s a party or Fiesta without a Piñata? BORING! So what’s a Piñata you ask? Read on.


They're everywhere, at most Hispanic celebrations anywhere. From birthdays to Christmas you will see these colorful, candy and toy filled creations hanging from a rope ready to be broken open to reveal the delightful surprises waiting to be shared by everyone.
The word piñata comes from the Italian word "pignatta", meaning "fragile pot". Originally, piñatas came from China. Marco Polo is credited with introducing the idea to Europe in the 14th century. When the custom reached Spain, the piñata was used on the first Sunday of Lent. The fiesta was called "Dance of the Piñata". A clay pot, an olla, was decorated with colorful papers, ribbons, and tinsel.

The Aztecs used a form of the piñata to celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war. Pots were decorated with fancy feathers and filled with "tiny treasures". The pots were then hung and broken with a stick to allow these treasures to fall at the feet of the gods' image as an offering. With the coming of the 16th century, Spanish missionaries used the piñata to attract converts to their ceremonies. The clay pot was called a cantero, which represented Satan. At the time, the most usual design of the piñata was a round center, where the clay pot was hidden by the decorative papers, with seven points, like a star, each with dangling steamers. These points represented the seven deadly sins: greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath, and lust. Therefore, the piñata reflected catequismo, meaning religious instruction or catechism.

The blindfolded participant represented a force defying evil: Fe, meaning faith. The stick used to break the piñata-symbolized virtue. Once the piñata was broken, the candies and fruits that fell out of the pot were the rewards for keeping their faith. Colorful piñatas can be found in all shapes and sizes. They can be purchased in Mexican markets or specialty stores. There's even a place in El Paso that will ship a piñata to you. But, you can also make one yourself and design it to your hearts content.

How To Make a Piñata

Materials Needed for Star Piñata

1. 1 balloon - as large as you want your piñata.
2. Old newspapers, torn into strips, and full sheet newspapers to make into cones.
3. Paste mix: 1 cup of flour and ½ cup water (more or less on the water to create the consistency desired).
4. 6 feet of strong string or yarn.5. Various colors of crepe paper streamers to decorate the piñata.6. 1 small bottle of glue.
7. Masking tape.

A. Inflate the balloon and make a knot to keep in the air.
B. Tie the 6 foot string to the knot. You will use the string to hang up the balloon to allow it to dry .
C. Make your flour and water paste.
D. Dip the strips of newspaper into the paste and cover the balloon with two layers.
E. Let this dry for 24 hours.
F. Make 5 newspaper cones. Attached to the piñata with masking tape.
G. If you would like to re-enforce your piñata a little more, paste another layer of newspaper strips all over, including the cones and allow to dry another 24 hours.
H. When piñata is completely dry, pull on the string at top to loosen the balloon. Make a small slit in the balloon to deflate. When all the air is out of the balloon, pull the balloon out. Now you're ready to decorate the piñata.
I. Cut colored crepe paper strips into 10 inch pieces. On one side of the strip (the long side), cut a fringe the length of the strip.
J. Using your bottle of glue, apply a thin line of glue to the crepe paper strip (the side without the fringe), and apply to the piñata. Experiment. Use your imagination.
K. Allow the piñata to dry another 24 hours. Attach a piece of wire in back to dangle piñata on a rope. Also, make an opening in the back carefully with a craft utility knife to fill piñata with candies. Then simply tape the opening closed again.

Remember: A piñata is an instrument of fun. Always keep smaller children far away from the spot where the piñata is being hit. Accidents have been known to occur in the midst of the excitement. A simple piñata can be made from a brown paper grocery bag, or even a box. The point is to have fun making it, with or without your children, and then have fun taking turns trying to break it apart. Enjoy.

For something a little extra crazy, check out Talking Piñatas. They come in hit-activated and motion-activated styles. AND, the most important thing is, they're made in El Paso, my home town!

Don't forget to check out my Chocolate Blog.
Mexican word of the day: BUTTER and LETTUCE
I wanna marry my ruca butter parents won't lettuce.


Gloria Chadwick said...

Teresa, I'll bet you're making that pinata for Lily's birthday! Give her a hug for me. Can't wait to see the fiesta you have planned for her!

Reeni said...

How fun! They would be great for Halloween parties, too! Thanks for showing us how to make them and all that interesting info. on their origins.

Michele said...

I remember making a pinata as a school project in the second grade. My mother and I had so much fun making that one that we made one every summer until I started high school. I miss those days! :-)

Ben said...

Thank you for this post, Teresa. I didn't really know the history of the pinatas, but funny thing. I have never broken one. I come from a weird family that doesn't celebrate anything. LOL

RecipeGirl said...

Wow, I'm impressed. I've never thought to make one myself! Of course, we're right next to Tijuana so it's pretty easy to find a zillion kinds of pinatas around here. The kids love them!

Mommy's Kitchen said...

How fun you did a great job.

Adam said...

Whoa, pinatas are Chinese? Well I learned something today :)

Great job on yours, the star shape came out perfect! I almost don't want to break something like that, oh but then I remember there's candy inside :)

Foodycat said...

This is so interesting! And looks like such a fun activity.

anudivya said...

Just visited your chocolate blog... and you write yet another amazing blog! I love the mexican word of the day as well :)
I have a few friends who are from Mexico, so I am pretty familiar with Mexican food!

Kelly said...

Thanks for the comment. I'm excited to follow your blog as I love Mexican-American cooking, but don't have a lot of experience in it and am always looking for ideas!

VG said...

Thanks for the post...great source of info and fun for parties.

BTW, looove your words for the day - very witty.

Meryl said...

OMG! This is the perfect post for me right now! I was just telling the kids in the International Club that I run about how I'd like to make piñatas with them. But I've never made one myself! Now, not only can I try to make one, but I can give them the history of the piñata too, which makes it all the more sweet. Thanks, Tere! This is a totally awesome post!!!!