Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


It's unknown where piņatas originated. Some believe they are a Chinese invention, taken to Italy by Marco Polo. What is known is that in the 14th century,  the Italian "pignatta" became associated with Carnevale before Lent because it was then that a clay pot shaped like a dove began to be suspended over the Carnevale crowd and smashed to shower down treats ("pignatta" means "clay pot"). The pre-Lenten practice spread to Spain and was taken by Spanish missionaries to the New World. There, the priests fashioned piņatas to represent Satan, and seven-pointed stars representing the Seven Deadly Sins, so that beating them would be, in part, a bit of religious instruction and a defiance of evil. The rewards, as a sign of faith rewarded, would attract the natives to their sermons.

Nowadays, most piņatas are usually made of papier-mache and are associated most strongly with Mexico (though they are still used in Italy and Spain, too). In Mexico, they are seen at most celebrations, especially around Christmas.

To make a piņata takes about 5 days, and it's messy work, but children love them, so it's all worthwhile. You will need:


  • Very large balloon, smaller balloons of different shapes, cardboard tubes, cardboard with the thickness of shoebox cardboard, and other things to form the shape

  • Old newspapers torn, crosswise, into 2" wide strips

  • Plain white paper torn into strips

  • Flour and water mixed to a pancake batter consistency

  • Brightly colored tissue paper and a glue stick (liquid glue is too wet) and/or acrylic or fabric paints

  • Wrapped candies, peanuts, trinkets, etc., to fill

Blow up the large balloon to form the basic shape, such as the body if making an animal (don't blow it up too full). Arrange with other balloons, cardboard tubes, cones and other shaped formed from shoebox-thick cardboard, etc., to refine shape and create legs, arms, horns, points, etc. -- whatever your shape requires -- and lightly tape them together to keep the shape.

Dip strips of newspaper into the flour-water mixture and lay a layer over the form, slightly overlapping as you go, until the form is fully covered. Let dry. The next day, repeat the process, adding another layer over the layer already made. Do the same for 4 or 5 days -- using plain white paper on the last day -- until you have a nice, solid shape made of many layers of paper. When fully dry, cut a two inch circle in the top of the main section, popping and removing the main balloon, and fill up with the candies and trinkets. Replace the two-inch circle you removed, and tape into place, and then decorate the piņata with acrylic paints or fabric paints, and/or tiny pieces of tissue paper glued on with a glue stick.

Suspend the piņata from a rope so that it can be raised and lowered as the children strike at it. This makes the game more challenging! Blindfold one child at a time, spin him around a few times, and then let him whack at the piņata as the crowd shouts directions ("Up higher!" Lower!" Go right! You're getting colder!" etc.). After he's had three chances, repeat with the next child until the piņata is finally broken open. When that finally happens, the children will scramble to gather up as much of the treats as they can. To ensure that no child is left out, set aside some extra candy beforehand so that all children will have some at the end of the game.

Back to Being Catholic Index