The Evolution of the “Piñata” – From Mexican Tradition to Spiderman!

By: Laura Kelly

Over 20 million people viewed a YouTube video of a Mexican child who couldn’t bear to beat a Spiderman piñata with a stick. Promised candy or not, the little child bravely defied tradition, dropped the stick, and with tearful eyes, protectively embraced his hero “Spidey” (who happened to be about the same size) and refused to smash him up with the bat!

By: American’s Funniest Home Videos, May 4, 2015

Riding high on the endorphin the tender video evoked, I recalled other piñata sacrificial victims commonly seen at festive events here in Mexico in recent times. My personal favorite is SpongeBob Square Pants, but he’s in good company. I’ve seen Snow White, Buz from Toy Story, and even Santa Claus strung up waiting to be annihilated with a bat by cute little blindfolded kids to a crowd of cheering adulating friends and family chanting and singing “Dale, dale, dale!” (Hit it! Hit it! Hit it!).

Candy pileups are always fun. But in this age of apparently increasing violence, a tradition which strongly resembles children beating to pieces effigies of their favorite sweet personages in order to be rewarded by candy might cause one to wonder . . . Is this a good idea? Don’t get me wrong – it’s fun! But maybe in the back of one’s mind arises the question . . . How did this happen?

The traditional Mexican Pinata derives from a blend of Catholic tradition super-imposed over the Aztec offering to the god of war Huitzilopochtli. In it’s missionaried version, useful for catecism teachings, this Pinata has a special form which represents the seven cardinal sins (google them if you don’t still have them memorized like some of us who may have attended Catholic schools). Emerging from an inner sphere are seven points. This form is decorated with papier machier and streamers and filed with a cache of wonderful goodies.

PIÑATA

Traditionally, the piñata represented the seven cardinal sins. Breaking it symbolized humans receiving the gift of spiritual enlightenment.

The child is blindfolded to represent our blindness as we live without spiritual enlightenment. Though blind, if we valiantly battle these sins until effectively smashing through them (the hold they have on our behavior) we can become liberated. That’s when the real goodies rain upon us!

In those olden days, an event that would have a piñata for the children, would be accompanied by a background of pervasive teachings about all these things so that even the most ardent candy seeking, valiant warrior child swinging a bat blind folded, high on adrenaline pumped up by the cheering crowd, would also deep down somehow be thinking about the importance of overcoming those sins (greed, wrath, …what were the other ones?). The explosion of candy would have come with the open-hearted joy of sharing with the smaller children . . . well a bit anyway.

And Spiderman, Snow White, Buzz from Toy Story, and Santa – had they existed yet – would be safe and sound, held in the bosom of a more innocent childhood.

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