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History of the Piñata

By Alma Flores & Gerardo Rivera


China Invented it, Italy named it and Mexico claimed it for all time.

The Chinese Piñata Connection

Piñatas are part of Mexican Folklore

Piñatas are part of Mexican Folklore

In the childhood memories of every Mexican there is a scene full of excitement: with a blindfold over our eyes and a broomstick styled pole in our hands, to the tune of the cries and chants of aunts, cousins and little friends who sing strike it, strike it, strike it, don't loose your aim, 'cause if you loose it, you'll loose your way!, the child we were twirls and jumps, stretching arms to reach and strike the evasive piñata that flies, up and down.

China Pinata

"Piñatas" were created in China

Higher! Lower! Straight ahead!- above our heads. And together with this memory we remember the magic of becoming, in the happy case of being the lucky one who broke the pinata, the hero or heroine of the party.

The pinata is always associated with a party or fiesta, a Mexican fiesta. Throughout the world the piñata is referred to as a tradition that originated in our land, to the degree that piñatas of different shapes and sizes travel to other countries in the baggage of millions of travelers that visit our nation and that wish to return to their homes with a very Mexican memento.

However, everything points to the fact that the extremely Mexican piñata had its origin in remote China. In ancient times they were made in China to receive every new season of the year. That is why they had the shape of a pig, an ox, a cow, a buffalo or other favorite symbols of the Chinese culture and calendar.

Marco Polo | Piñatas

Marco Polo took the pinatas to Italy

Covered in colorful paper (known as papel de China or China paper) that we assume was made of rice fibers, they were filled with five types of seed, which came flying out and scattered over the ground when the Mandarins struck the figure with wooden staffs covered in gay colors.

Afterwards, the paper that covered the "piñata" was burned and the party guests threw themselves to the ground, like children do today, in order to get a little piece of the burned paper, as fragile as a black butterfly's wings, which for them symbolized good luck.

It was the legendary Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, who in the thirteenth century brought the first "piñatas" back to Europe.

Chinese Piñata Marco Polo Piñatas in Mexico Modern Piñata

Part 1: The Chinese Piñata Connection

Part 2: Italy and the Pignatta

Part 3: The Piñata arrives in Mexico

Part 4: The Modern Piñata, religious no more

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