By Maggie Velasquez-Choi
La Piñata – April 5th is coming up soon. It will be Andrew’s first birthday. I’ve been planning a piñata party for him. I’ve gathered most of the materials to make it. I decided that a star would be the easiest and prettiest because of the many pointy cones with the shiny hanging tassels. My husband, Tom, and some of the American missionaries at my church know what a piñata is but nobody else in Korea seems to know what I’m talking about. It’s a Mexican tradition to have a piñata at a birthday party. I remember when my Aunt, Maria, made my piñata when I was about three years old. She took a round clay jar (for cooking beans) and she and her friends wrapped it with a flour/water paste in colorful crepe paper. They cut about 500 fringes in the crepe paper and curled it with the scissors. They made paper cones and covered them in the fringed crepe paper and added tassels to the ends. They filled the inside of the clay jar with candies and then hooked a wire around the handles of the clay pot and tied it to the middle section of a rope.
At the party, two boys would volunteer to climb up on the roof of the house to hold the piñata. One boy would be on the kitchen roof and the other on the bedroom roof. This works in Mexico because most country houses are built with the patio or garden in the middle of the house. In my part of Mexico, if you want to go from the bedroom to the kitchen you have to go through the open courtyard. It’s kind of fun except when it rains. Also, when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night you have to put on your shoes (you don’t want to go to bed with dusty feet) and wander in the dark and hear things that go bump in the night, outside! Well, where was I? Oh yeah, the piñata! Well, the two boys holding the rope would have a good time lowering the piñata to the next blindfolded kid at bat only to suddenly raise it just as the poor batter took a swing at it. We’d start with the youngest kids and the roof-boys would generously let them hit it a few times although they usually weren’t strong enough to break it. The big boys were the last to give it a try. Then somebody would give it a good whack and crack that clay jar and the candy would fly out.
Nowadays most piñatas are made with layers of newspapers and cardboard. They are easier to tear with a hit so a few candies fly out but they don’t crack like the clay jar piñatas of old. I guess I’ll be introducing the piñata to my little corner of Korea. Surprisingly, there are still some Americans who still haven’t heard of a piñata. Did you hear of the cultural exchange that took place when Joe Blow and John Q. Public decided to be entrepreneurs and introduce the bungee at their favorite Mexican beach?
Said John, “Hey, Joe, as long as we’re going to be spending time and money here we might as well set up a business and introduce Mexicans to bungee jumping.”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Said Joe
So they set up their bungee station and it was decided that John would go first to show the Mexicans how it was done. As he jumped off the platform he went down with a laugh and a shout. The people at the bottom were cheering and changing something. When John bounced back up he look scared and battered. Down he went again to the cheer and roar of the crowd. When he bounced back up again for the second time he was ragged, bruised and cut. “Get me out of this thing!” Cried John “And what’s a piñata, anyway?”
Andrew’s piñata party will be at the park with a few friends but the “real” birthday party that we’re going to have to give Andrew is a typical Korean first- year birthday party. The first year birthday is considered to be important in Korea so a big (expensive) party must ensue. It will be held at a fancy reception hall with a buffet and an MC should be hired. It will probably be as boring as those that I’ve gone to for my friends’ children but our bill for it will be around three thousand dollars.
If you’re interested in making your own plain-Jane piñata you can watch the video at http://video.about.com/familycrafts/How-to-Make-a-Pinata.htm
For cuter piñatas I looked in google.com and I clicked on “images” (top left corner) and typed “piñatas” in the search box.