Webster’s Dictionary describes a piñata (Spanish) as: ”a gaily decorated crock or papier-mâché figure filled with toys, candy, etc., suspended from above…so that children, who are blindfolded, may break it or knock it down with sticks and release the contents.”

Online information suggests that the origin of the piñata is Chinese. The Chinese container that was used for the New Year was made in the shape of a cow or ox, filled with seeds, and decorated with symbols and colors meant to produce a favorable climate for the coming growing season. The remains of the broken container were burned and the ashes kept for good luck.

The piñata concept was thought to come to Europe in the 14th century and then brought to Mexico in the 16th century “although there was already a similar tradition in Mesoamerica.”

The Mexican Catholic interpretation of the piñata was originally religious. The piñata represented evil and the contents the temptations of evil. The beating of the piñata represented “the struggle against temptation and evil.”

The spilling of the contents represented the rewards of keeping the faith. Piñatas have now become more of a popular tradition than a religious one, and the piñata-concept is used for celebrations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The piñata is still strongly identified with Mexico, so when Donald Trump made comments perceived as disparaging to Mexicans, piñatas were made to resemble him. Sticks took Trump to task.

A piñata can be made rather cheaply as follows:

1. Blow up a big balloon, then tie a loop of string around the neck of the balloon and suspend it over (or place it on) sheets of paper.. 2. Cut up newspapers into 2” wide strips. 3. Make a paste of ½ cup starch (solid, not liquid), 1 cup flour, and 4 cups water. Tissue paper optional.

Dip the newspaper strips in the paste and cover the entire balloon except for an opening at the top to insert toys, candy, etc. Spread the covered area with paste (cover with a layer of tissue paper if desired, spreading more paste on top). Allow it to dry in a warm place for about two days.

Break the balloon with a sharp object and remove it.

Decorate the piñata with paint and attach decorations with glue/paste. Insert toys, candy, etc. Use wire or rope/cord to harness and hang the piñata.

Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...