A piñata is a container that is usually brightly colored and decorated, made of cardboard or similar material that holds candy, trinkets, and toys. It is usually suspended from a rope and is broken open by blindfolded children wielding batons or sticks during a celebration or party. The piñata is a celebratory custom that has a strong association with Mexico, but has been found in use at celebrations world wide for hundreds of years. In the United States, breaking one open is a frequent game at children’s birthday parties.
The traditional piñata was always a container broken open with a stick, but due to the potential dangers and injuries resulting from blindfolded children swinging ball bats, a safer version has emerged. Many commercially available ones now feature an array of pull strings dangling from the bottom, only one of which will actually release the contents from the bottom through flap-like trap door. Children take turns pulling a single string until the one that opens the flap is pulled. Though this modified design is quite popular amongst parents, the original style still exists.
Due to the piñata’s popularity at celebrations and parties, many people feel that it is important to have one that coordinates with a party theme. Though it is traditionally an animal, the container can be of any shape. Many licensed characters are available in this form and availability varies with current popularity and trends. In addition to buying commercially manufactured piñatas, they can also be made from cardboard boxes, paper-mache, or even clay.
The contents of a piñata were traditionally fruits and sugarcane, though modern fillers have expanded to include all varieties of candy, gum, and other sweets, along with trinkets and toys like bouncy balls, spinning tops, plastic jewelry, and any other variety of small objects that children favor. Most children have no preference for the type of filling, but rather enjoy the momentary anticipation of trying to release whatever is hidden inside.