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Piñata Plethora ~ Monterey Park

10:44 AM PST on December 7, 2010

    Photos by Aurelio Jose Barrea

    It's Christmas time and that means that millions of piñatas will be happily destroyed all over the world. How much do you know about the history of the piñata? O great Wikipedia, we summon you to enlighten us:

    In Mexico, piñatas are believed to have originated among the Aztecs, Mayans, and other native peoples of Mexico, who made clay pots in the shape of their gods. The pots were meant to be broken forcefully with poles and sticks, so the contents spilled to signify abundance or favors from the gods. Historians tell us that during the birthday celebration of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, priests hung a clay pot on a pole in the temple. The pot was adorned with colorful feathers and filled with small treasures like bead ornaments, colorful or painted stones, berries, or nuts. When the pot was broken with a stick the little treasures spilled on the feet of the god as an offering. The Mayans played a game where the central player’s eyes were covered with a cloth while he tried to hit the pot that was suspended by a string.

    It has also been reportedthat the Spanish conquistadors brought the piñata practice to Mexico, where it became very popular perhaps due to the similar Mayan tradition of breaking clay pots. But the Spaniards soon changed the meaning of the piñata in the new world. It is believed that at the beginning of the 16th century the Spanish missionaries that went to America lured converts to their ceremonies by using piñatas. The friars cleverly transformed the traditional clay pot ceremonies into religious instruction sessions. They did this by covering the pot with colored paper, and giving it an impressive, perhaps evil appearance. The decorated clay pot may have represented Satan or evil deeds who would wear a pleasing mask to seem attractive and deceive the non-Christian. MORE

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