A Piñata Kinda Day


Sayid turned one year old in October. In honor of his first birthday, we were invited to a modest celebration, which included his initiation into the world of piñatas. His mother made a small orange carrot piñata. But, when she showed it to him the morning of his first birthday, he burst into tears and wailed like a pig going to slaughter.

I can understand his fear because according to the Catholic interpretation of the piñata, it symbolizes man’s struggle against temptation. The traditional piñata has seven points, which represent the seven deadly sins. To me, it resembles Sputnik, whirling around in space forever reminding us of our greed, sloth, pride, envy, gluttony, lust, and anger. No wonder the Nicaraguans named the famous land grab of the Sandinistas  “La Piñata”. After losing the 1990 election, the Sandinistas frantically confiscated property and government funds sharing their bounty among themselves.

With preparations for the fiesta underway, balloons “chimbombas” inflated like the rising cost of frioles, cooks flipped tortillas like IHOP professionals, and a political rally down the street seduced party goers with ear-piercing music and fireworks minus the sparkling fire. But, they soon returned when they discovered there was no piñata. For the piñata is the life of the party… the soul hidden among clusters of candy… seducing and reminding good Catholics everywhere to heed temptations that could lead to a life of misery.

Adults with sharp machetes whittled sticks of various sizes for the fiesta clad participants. When it was time to begin the celebration, Sayid swung his miniature stick at the swaying piñata with glee and determination. Older children, blindfolded to represent their faith, wiggled their hips to the ear thumping music, while adults tuned them in circles several times to represent the disorientation that temptation creates.

Whacking the piñata over and over, symbolically portrays the struggle against temptations and evils. When the piñata finally broke, the forlorn look on the children’s faces said it all. Where was the prize, the treats that represented keeping the faith? Ron and Francisco frantically searched through the shredded piñata and discovered the candy tightly wrapped in the head of the carrot. A few more strong whacks, and the candy showered the faithful children. The day was saved!

Some say that the piñata has lost its religious significance, but I don’t agree considering how many birthday parties I’ve attended in Nicaragua. Birthday parties ooze religious significance. After the broken piñata, the mountains of food, and the exceptionally long birthday song over Sayid’s first chocolate chip cake, I asked Francisco why the gifts were not opened in front of the guests. He said without a thought,  “It is a sin.” “I don’t understand why it is a sin,” I questioned. His response was, “We believe in the act of giving regardless of how small the gift. We would never embarrass anyone who offers something small, for all gifts, regardless of size, are gifts from God.” Now, that’s what I call a piñata kinda day!

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15 thoughts on “A Piñata Kinda Day

  1. I am glad that they don’t open the gifts while the guests are still there. That is how it is in my country too. Here in the States we’re so used to opening them in front of other people – it really embarrasses people when they’ve given something less which the honoree might have wanted anyway.

  2. Many Thanks for the piñata history lesson! I had no idea what the significance of the piñata was! And the pictures of the party are wonderful! I could never tire of seeing those smiling faces! I really love the tradition of the gifts not being the focus of the celebration, very nice! Thanks for bringing us all along and for sharing such a lovely tradition. Cheers!

    • Holly, I agree with you on the gifts not being the focus of the celebration. Yet, I always wonder if they like my gifts because many times, I don’t get to see them for months at a time after a celebration. I gave Sayid a little Fisher Price drum set that lights up and plays music when he bangs on it. I have a feeling he’ll love it, but I’m not so sure of his parents. lol Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  3. What an explanation and education I received about pinatas. I so enjoy your story telling.
    The Catholic faith knows how to intertwine their theology into the cultural framework of any people’s. Whether you think that has a positive or deleterious effect on people, there is a
    Strong moral efficacy.

  4. How many of them I attended when I was a child over there! And I LOVED the explanation that Francisco gave when you asked about openning the gifts! I remember attending a party for people getting married and all we could give was two nice bath towels, and of course, later, the next time I saw the couple, they thanked me from the heart and that was nice to know, maybe some other guests gave them something of more value… And that is why I still feel uncomfortable going to a wedding registry here in the USA. But you described the meaning of a pinata very well! Thank you!

    Maria in NJ

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