Cinco de Mayo: A Brief History of the Piñata

PinataCinco de Mayo is just a few days away and, as Americans, there’s no holiday we won’t celebrate to honor our mixed culture. When we think of celebrating Cinco de Mayo and Mexican heritage, margaritas and guacamole come to mind as well as piñatas — those fun, candy-stuffed papier-mache animals kids beat with sticks until they explode. It’s a unique tradition, so we wanted to find out about how piñatas came about. Here’s a brief history of the piñata.

Chinese Chachkes According to Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, there are two paths piñatas followed to become a Mexican symbol of celebration. The first path was via China. During a visit to China in the 1300s, Marco Polo allegedly observed Chinese people fill elaborately decorated figures of animals filled with seeds. They then hit the figures with brightly colored sticks until they broke and spilled the seeds. Marco Polo brought the idea back to Italy where the animals evolved into decorated clay pots called “pignattas” which means “fragile pots.” The idea became a Lenten tradition and spread across Europe all the way to Spain.

PinataMissionary Method Spanish missionaries are credited with bringing the tradition to Mexico in the 1500s. They used the colorful clay pots to attract the indigenous people to Christian ceremonies. What the missionaries didn’t know was the indigenous people already had a similar tradition of their own.  It was used in an Aztec ceremony to honor the god of war. A a clay pot was hung from a pole and smashed with a club and the treasures inside were considered an offering to the god. Mayans are the ones who came up with the blindfolding element that makes the piñata game interesting — almost as interesting as how the missionaries used piñatas to instill fear in the indigenous people. They decorated the piñatas to make them scary and frighten the tribes into converting to Christianity.Pinata

Dreaded Decor Christian piñatas are the piñatas that aren’t in the shape of animals but rather seven-pointed stars. Each point represents one of the seven deadly sins and the candy inside represents temptations. The stick used to maim the piñata and the person wielding the stick are symbols of the faith that can destroy evil. Now piñatas are commonly made in the shape of donkeys — it became a tradition for the festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe because the donkey is what carried the Virgin Mary to Bethlehem where she gave birth to Jesus.

Piñatas don’t carry as much religious weight as they used to. Now they’re mostly used as decoration for adult Cinco de Mayo parties and a fun way to distribute candy at kids’ birthday parties.


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USA: The World Cup

Eyes around the world are on Brazil as it hosts the 20th World Cup soccer tournament. There are 32 nations participating – with millions of people watching this summer. Even though we’re a nation of soccer moms, there’s a lot the kids know about the World Cup that we don’t. Here is a little bit of background on the tournament and what it means to the USA so you can understand what all the excitement is about.

The Start

The FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup is an international Soccer-in-the-raintournament held every four years – similar to the Olympic Games – with teams representing each country that qualifies to play in the tournament. It was originally an Olympic event supervised by FIFA, but became a singular event in 1930. The first tournament was held in Uruguay with 13 teams – the United States was one of them. The United States beat both Mexico and Paraguay, but the host team — Uruguay — won the first ever World cup.

In 1934, the tournament expanded to include 16 teams including the United States, but The World Cup didn’t grow again until 1982 when a total of 24 teams participated.

The Absence
The United States didn’t make it back to the World Cup until 1950. They beat England in the first round, but the United States was out of the World Cup loop for another four decades and soccer was off the radar as a spectator sport at home for that time. The team didn’t qualify for the World Cup again until 1990.

The Return

The United States has been a fierce contender at the World Cup in the last two decades. In 1998 USA made it to the quarterfinals, and in 2010, even though the team was knocked out of the tournament in the final 16, they were ranked #12.

SoccerJune 16, 2014

Today, the United States plays their first game in World Cup 2014 against Ghana in Natal, Brazil. Ghana beat the United States in the last two World Cups – sending them home both times. Landon Donovan, USA’s sweetheart for the 16 years and the highest scoring American player in World Cup history, was cut from the United States this World Cup; even so, fans are optimistic. The game starts at 6:00pm EST.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Update: USA beat Ghana 2-1