Although the piñata is most commonly associated with Mexico, it is actually believed to have originated in China! It was most commonly in the shape of a cow or ox and almost exclusively used for New Years celebrations. The piñata was originally not filled with candy, but with seeds to ensure a good climate for the new year’s growing season.
Once the festivities began, the piñata would be struck until the seeds fell, and once it was empty the seeds would be burnt and the ashes kept, ensuring good luck. When exactly did the piñata become Mexican? It actually took several steps.
Piñatas arrived in Europe in the 1300’s and were used for Lenten celebrations, although these were different from their Chinese cousins. They were simply clay pots that were decorated and got their name from the Italian word, “pignatta” meaning “fragile pot.”
The piñata arrived in Mexico in the 16th century. Here the monks from Spain introduced the custom, yet adopted a similar Aztec tradition of covering the eyes of the one making an offering to a god. Thus, the blindfold was introduced, and since then not a whole lot has changed!