Call me a killjoy. I can't get on board with piñatas.

11/03/2010 05:08:00 AM
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.

That said.

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The traditional seven-points are gone and have been replaced by favorite childhood characters: Mickey Mouse, Bob the Builder, Sponge Bob, Strawberry Shortcake, Nemo...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.

[heavy sigh...]

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.



  1. Funny.

    Sophia went to her first pinata birthday party over the summer. All the kids (and parents) were just like you explained. She was almost 2. When the pinata's body busted open, it was just the head hanging from a string and they left it like that. Sophia was in awe....just standing there staring at the hanging, busted head. Sad. She wouldn't let it go that all the kids 'hurt' the pinata. All the other kids pushed her out of the way as she stood there, feeling sympathy for the pinata. None of the parents said a thing. They cheered on their kids to get more candy.

    We left with no candy AND a heart broken child; not over the lack of candy, but the beating of the poor pinata. That said, we will not have one either...

  2. I agree on all points! I've never understood the "joy" of a pinata. I don't encourage hitting so why would I then give my child a stick so they can beat something to "win" candy? There are other less-abusive games that could be played.

    And not to mention how nasty the candy would be on the inside of them? It doesn't seem to me like it would be very fresh.

  3. @Sassy - what a sweet heart you have!

    @Wendy - the candy in today's pinatas is always fresh - perhaps that's the only positive point? They fill them just before the party.

  4. Confession: When I saw your post title, I gasped and readied myself to post a polite yet argumentative comment. I mean, pinatas are fun and festive and sparkly! Killjoy!


    But the safety issues alone swayed me your way. And the disembodied head thing Sassy mentioned: Ai-yikes.

    I'm still not an advocate of the "everything must be fair and equal for everyone ALWAYS ALWAYS" idea, because life isn't like that, but...maybe it's OK for little ones. And especially at birthday parties. :)

  5. As far as pinatas go... my kids and I have to been to many a party with and without pinatas. I would say 1/2 the time it is a mess of a situation, but many times it is not a character, there isn't really any 'violence' and now a days they have a string to pull that releases the candy, and the pinata remains unharmed :)

    So I really am ok with them, however, being the mom of a somewhat 'mature' 6 yr old boy... even if he had never swung a stick at a pinata in his life, "combat, play fights/wrestling, constant competition in order to win or be best", has come quite naturally. I used to try to curb it, stop it, give him alternatives, but I have found he is NOT a violent or mean boy in any way- in fact has one of the kindest hearts- yet it truly seems to be in his nature to be aggressive and compete... The boys he plays with, for the most part all love to do it and are never actually mad or mean to one another... they just enjoy it. It gets out energy and built up frustration. It is a release in may ways in which no actual ill-will is intended- only fun.

    So I guess I had to mention that considering if I were to imagine Grant without all those "rough" parts of his personality, it just wouldn't be HIM.

  6. @Written Permission - I completely respect the notion that life ISN'T fair. I couldn't agree more. My sister was telling me a story about a kids' baseball league where there were NO strikes. NO ONE WAS EVER OUT. Can you imagine?!

    And P.S. I always welcome ANY differences of opinions! Especially from you, lady.

    @Mick - Grant is the sweetest of all little boys. In fact, he's been the ideal little boy (in my eyes) since he was born. You know I love him. I think we need that "string" to pull and the candy falls out of the trap door... that doesn't exist here that I know of.

  7. I hope pinatas never go away as they make wonderful clips for AFV.

    As far as real life goes? Pass. Too many people get whacked in the junk at those parties.

  8. Well when you say it like that it sounds so sad :( Poor pinata.

    I am indifferent about them. I hit my first one in college when I was drunk, so at the time it was AWESOME! Then once I got one for Terry for his birthday, but wouldn't let him hit it open. Instead just took out the candy through the little opening I so carefully put the candy into.

    I have never had one for me or been anywhere else where there was one. I also don't like fighting for candy. So I am totally indifferent about them.

    For the record, the one I got terry was sponge bob! :)

  9. What!? Candy raining from the sky... I couldn't think of anything better.

  10. I never understood pinatas either. How does beating their beloved cartoon characters to a pulp not scar children for life? Don't even get me started on the chaos after the pinata breaks... it's something I'd expect from ''Lord of the Flies'', not a birthday party!


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