Although I like to blame Dora the Explorer for my daughter’s pinata fascination, the truth is that it’s become a bit of a cherished tradition around here.
The 'Rough Dog' Pinata
It all started on her fourth birthday (yes, that time when all children exposed to a shouting girl in a jungle become madly infatuated and start learning Spanish at amazing speed). We were in Australia at the time and the only thing that Stella requested for her birthday celebration was a pinata. Her grandmother and I set out with her to a party-supply store to hunt one down. We found some, but the pickings were slim. Stella examined each choice carefully and decided upon what she called a “rough dog.” The rough dog was actually a bull, so it’s no wonder it didn’t look like a “cute dog” to her! (To this day, she doesn’t know that it was actually a bull and not a dog. She really likes dogs, so I don’t want to stomp on this nice memory.)
You’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that pinatas, like Dora, are of Mexican descent. Instead, China is said to have been the original creator of this paper mache treat.
It goes like this: On his travels, Marco Polo came across pinatas in 13th century Orient. The Mandarin people would celebrate holidays with animal effigies made of paper and ribbon. These effigies would be filled with seeds and hung from a tree branch. And just like today, sticks were used then to beat open the pinata and release the seeds. When Marco Polo returned to Italy, he brought this pinata tradition back with him. From Italy, the fun was spread to Spain, and then from Spain to the ‘New World’ of North America.
Of course, these days, you’d never find something as healthy as a seed inside a pinata. But that’s the New World for ya.
The Making of the Dino Pinata
Speaking of the New World … when her fifth birthday hit and we were back in Canada, no simple ‘rough dog’ was going to suffice when my husband came on task. He took it upon himself to create a pinata from scratch in whatever particular vision Stella had in mind. Dinosaurs were a bit of an obsession by this point. (And I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘obsession.’ She insisted that we, and everyone at her daycare, call her Yellow Dinosaur and not Stella. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen the dino exhibit at the Museum of Nature.)
I really couldn’t tell you how many hours went into making this dinosaur pinata. It was clearly a labour of love (although my husband would probably claim money-saving advantages).
Completed Dinosaur Pinata
The irony of spending hours and hours on something only to smash it to smithereens is not lost on me. Personally, if I had made this masterpiece of a pinata, I’d probably have thrown my body on top of it as soon as the stick and blindfold were brought out.
But no, this didn’t happen. Instead, we all eagerly took turns whacking it with a stick until its insides released sugar-laden goodies all over the grass.
We’ve just celebrated another birthday here. A 7th birthday. Stella, although still somewhat enamoured by dinosaurs has transferred her obsession to Pokemons. And yes, we’re in obsession territory here again. Anyhow, she picked a Pokemon by the name of Chancy to be the lucky effigy.
Chancy the Pokemon Pinata
I tried to find an image of Chancy to share with you because, honestly, this pinata is a work of art! But alas, I could not. (However, if you have Pokemon fans in your home, a Pokedex is surely close at hand!)
We spent the special day at Cosmic Adventures with a friend and then welcomed our family to our home for a BBQ. All this was nice, sure, and even the Pokemon cake was good. But the big highlight of any birthday for Stella is pinata time. When the big moment arrived, each child lined up to have their turn smashing Chancy three times. And I tell ya, this Chancy is cute and all, but man, is he tough! Each child had several turns before the goods started to seep out of Chancy’s belly. And then finally – bang! – every toy and goodie flew out. Chancy’s days were over.
After the party died down and we were tidying up, Stella told me she felt a bit sad about Chancy. She said she really didn’t like him get wrecked. This, I could understand. She and her father had invested a great deal of time in creating this Pokemon pinata. I gave her a hug and wondered if our family pinata tradition had shreeched to a halt.
Chancy doesn't stand a chance!
Then I shook myself back to reality. I remembered in vivid detail how she clearly cherished her time pummeling poor Chancy to an untimely death.
So I’m hoping that our little pinata tradition is safe and sound until next year.
It’s hard to resist traditions — even the most illogical — isn’t it?