From New To Farm Life ; a post from our Christmas vacation last year.
The pinata is the universal celebratory item, is it not? I don't know if the pinata is a purely Mexican invention that has spread around the world, or if the idea of the pinata is a kind of cultural universal (I suspect the latter) but in either case, a pinata is a lot of fun and a must-have item for all festive occasions.
My children broke seven pinatas on this trip. That's by their own count. I kind of lost track. Pinata making is a cottage industry in Mexico, and many is the family that makes its living with newspaper and paste. The sad little cardboard factory made things that pass for pinatas here in the states are pathetic by comparison, and I hate buying them. Pinatas in Mexico are truly works of art, even if most of them are based on Disney characters and one might question the tastefulness of beating the little mermaid to death with a stick.
My sister-in-law Temy and her children made the most beautiful pinata I have ever seen - with small help from us. It is in the form of a branch of grapes, and is molded on a clay pot and covered with blown, confetti stuffed eggs. If you count the time it takes to save up so many eggshells, this pinata must have taken months to make. I hope to make one myself someday, so I documented the process. This pinata is truly for those with the Martha Stewart gene, so be warned. But if you want to make the mothers of the friends of your five year old swoon with envy, make this for her birthday party. Just start four months ahead of time.
The girls covering the clay pot with strips of newspaper glued on with a paste made from water and cornstarch. Since you are unlikely to come across an unfired round clay pot here in the states (and may also wish to avoid the risk of concussion), mold your pinata base on a balloon.
For several months ahead of time, anytime you use an egg, be careful to crack it only at the top, preserving as much as possible the shell. Set the shells aside to dry. When you have about 150 of them, buy a bag full of confetti and fill the eggshells with a spoon.
Turn the pot upside down - or, if using a balloon, cut off a small opening on the top for filling with candy. Then turn upside down. Roll a piece of thin cardboard into a cone and attach to the bottom of the pinata (the top, turned upside down - get it?) with newspaper and paste. Let dry completely. Poke four holes in the rim of the opening and run twine through in a cross pattern. This is to hang the pinata later. When eggs and pinata are dry, use a hot glue gun to attach the eggs, covered side in, to the pinata. Start at the tip of the cone and work your way down on a spiral, trying to cover the pinata as closely as possible. When all are attached and dry, carefully turn pinata right side up and hang with the twine outside somewhere.
Use spray paint to paint the pinata grape-colored. This pinata has leaves made of cardboard covered with green crepe-paper, which is a nice touch. The hardest part is transporting the pinata after it is filled, so if possible make and fill the pinata on the same site where it is to be broken. Once it is turned right side up and filled, a strong person has to hold it at arm's length so the eggs don't break until it can be strung up.
It feels like a damn shame to destroy such a beautiful, painstakingly constructed object. You will not want to. I didn't. But the children have so much fun, they are so delighted with the crash and the shower of confetti and the candy. And there is something both terrible and elating about the violent destruction of beauty, especially of a beautiful object that embodies so much time and effort.
Breaking this pinata is like a tiny lesson in mortality. In all endeavors, natural and artificial, complexity occurs slowly and with effort, but can and will inevitably be reduced in a relative instant. Breaking the pinata is ritually laughing in the face of death, a beautiful celebration of ending. To break the pinata is to bow to the inevitable, but to do so with grace and spirit and joy.
How very Mexican.