Sunday, August 24, 2008

Piñata History

Yesterday was the birthday celebration of our nephew antoine.We enjoyed watching him trying to break his piñatas!Piñatas is originally from Mexico which is most people think of piñatas as a fun activity for parties. The history of the piñata reveals many interesting facts that go beyond the playing of a game, although piñatas certainly have been intended for fun.
Piñatas may have originated in China. Marco Polo discovered the Chinese fashioning figures of cows, oxen or buffaloes, covered with colored paper and adorned with harnesses and trappings. Special colors traditionally greeted the New Year. When the mandarins knocked the figure hard with sticks of various colors, seeds spilled forth. After burning the remains, people gathered the ashes for good luck throughout the year.
When this custom passed into Europe in the 14th century, it adapted to the celebrations of Lent. The first Sunday became ‘Piñata Sunday’. The Italian word ‘pignatta’ means "fragile pot." Originally, piñatas fashioned without a base resembled clay containers for carrying water. Some say this is the origin of the traditional pineapple shape. Also the Latin prefix ‘piña’ implies a cluster of flowers or fruits as in ‘pineapples’ and ‘pine cones’.
When the custom spread to Spain, the first Sunday in Lent became a fiesta called the ‘Dance of the Piñata’. The Spanish used a clay container called la olla, the Spanish word for pot. At first, la olla was not decorated. Later, ribbons, tinsel and fringed paper were added and wrapped around the pot.
At the beginning of the 16th century the Spanish missionaries to North America used the piñata to attract converts to their ceremonies. However indigenous peoples already had a similar tradition. To celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, priests placed a clay pot on a pole in the temple at year's end. Colorful feathers adorned the richly decorated pot, filled with tiny treasures.. When broken with a stick or club, the treasures fell to the feet of the god's image as an offering. The Mayans, great lovers of sport played a game where the player’s eyes were covered while hitting a clay pot suspended by string. The missionaries ingeniously transformed these games for religious instruction. They covered the traditional pot with colored paper, giving it an extraordinary, perhaps fearful appearance.

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