A generation ago, most birthday parties around Australia had a custom to stuff children with sugar-coated candies and sometimes whack them – calling it birthday bombs. Piñata has also become one of the favourite traditions in recent times. It is stuffed with treats and belted with a big stick. However, it is much more than just a fun game!
Let’s roll back to its history!
Piñatas originated in China. For local new year celebrations, the Chinese would build figures of animals like cows and buffaloes, covered with attractive coloured paper and ribbon, meant to produce good weather for the growing season ahead. Unlike our version of Piñatas, these were filled with different seeds, and when they were busted, the remains were burnt and the ashes were kept for good luck.
In the 14th century, Marco Polo brought the ritual to Italy, and it eventually spread to Spain, where it was a part of the celebration of Lent. The Italian word ‘pignatta’ means ‘cooking pot’ or ‘fragile pot’. This is because they were made of clay.
In America, the Aztecs had their tradition going on: they’d decorate earthen pots with colourful feathers and burst it in celebration of their God of War. Even the Mayans had a similar tradition, where they’d blindfold the person holding the stick.
The traditional piñata has a star with seven cones, each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins. The busting of the piñata symbolises the triumph of good over evil, and the candies and fruits inside represent the temptation against wealth and other pleasures. Being blindfolded implied blindly following your faith, and being spun around 33 times was one revolution for every year that Jesus was alive.
Over time, religious significance was long dead. The clay pot was replaced by paper-mâché, and the animal shapes were replaced by all kinds of fun Disney cartoons filled with guilt-free toffees.
How to make your Piñata
- Tissue paper
- Candies or other items you wish to fill in your piñata
Let’s get started!
- Mix water and flour to create a paste.
- Blow up the balloon and cut the newspaper into strips.
- Dip the newspaper strip into the paste, squeezing off excess paste. Stick it to the balloon.
- Repeat step 3, layering newspaper on until the balloon is covered three to four layers deep. Leave an opening at the top to fill in candies.
- Let it dry for at least 24 hours. Then pop the balloon and decorate it the way you want!