Preface: there are so many cultural traditions that I adore about Mexico. And, I find the community in which I live to be warm, family-oriented and well… lovely and colorful.
I just cannot get on board with piñatas.
The origins of the piñata are from the middle east (China), however over the years Spain, Mexico and a few other countries acquired it and it has become woven into the fabric of this here Mexican culture.
Apparently, the original piñata form was a seven-sided star with each point symbolizing the seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, anger/wrath and pride.
The stick (or as I like to call it: the beater) symbolized love. (Irony at its best? Or worst?) In essence, love beats the TAR out of the sins and then forgiveness and new beginnings BURST forward in the form of candies, fruits, etc. from the seven-sided star piñata.
Fast forward to today:
The traditional seven-points are gone and have been replaced by favorite childhood characters: Mickey Mouse, Bob the Builder, Sponge Bob, Strawberry Shortcake, Nemo… These characters are centerpieces at fiestas.
Forget the fruit, the piñata is filled with candies. Next the children, starting from the youngest to eldest, are [sometimes] blindfolded as they’re handed the equivalent of a policeman’s night stick to beat the innards out of the piñata that is swinging up and down from a pully-type system. The child is allowed to beat the piñata for as long as it takes the party-goers to sing the piñata song.
If the piñata doesn’t break… (which it NEVER does the first time around), the kids get a second chance. Then, sometimes adults get involved and start pounding the beloved character, too.
Finally, as was the case this past weekend, Nemo lost a fin and succumbed to the gang-violence and jeering. Candy poured out of his severed fin and all of the children AND SOME ADULTS rushed in and pushed and grabbed as much candy as they possibly could. It’s survival of the fittest childrens’ party-style.
Invariably there are stepped-on children.
Invariably there are crying children.
Inevitably there’s that one weird Dad or that one weird Mom who scoops up a shirt-full of candy to give to his/her own children thus stealing from itty-bitties to give to their child.
It’s just weird.
A. You don’t BEAT beloved cartoon characters with a stick – even if it’s a “love” stick.
B. You don’t give children a wooden stick for them to wield wildly among a group of other children.
C. Violence should never really be fun and celebrated.
D. You don’t allow your child to push other children out of the way so that they can get a candy. Is a starburst really worth it?
Everything about the piñata just seems inappropriate. Are we teaching our children that by beating things until they BURST they can get their way? Or better yet, if you want something – just push others out of your way and grabby-grab it.
THIS, my friends, is why candy bags were invented.
Lila will never have a piñata at any of her birthday parties. Instead, the children will all leave with a bag of candy in which each child will receive the same amount of candy fairly and squarely with no pushing, hitting or potential blunt force injuries.
Children have the rest of their lives to learn the reality of life. They’re not going to be pushed around on my dime or at one of my daughters’ parties.
Yes, I realize it’s merely a game and a fun tradition. But I’m not a fan of tradition for traditions’ sake. The garter toss at a wedding? Not my thing. Bachelor parties that encourage the bachelor to have a great time solely because tomorrow he’s going to be tied down to a ball and chain? Stupid. I could go on and on.
Breaking from tradition is an OK thing.
Thumbs down to piñatas.