Thursday, October 29, 2015


A dizzy kid staggers blindfolded across the basement floor and slices the air repeatedly with a plastic boat paddle. It doesn't take long for the rest of us to figure out that this may not be the safest environment. So we artfully back away, dodge the swings, and cringe when the oar catches an unsuspecting laundry basket with a resounding "SWACK."

It seemed like such an innocent thing--a brand new pinata sitting there on a garage sale table with a price tag touting it as a $1 bargain. One dollar--really?

Pinatas like this go for $20 or more at Wal-Mart during holiday seasons. With Halloween fast approaching, I really had no choice but to scoop up this little prize, shaped like the head of a Mardi Gras clown clad in the most inviting greens, yellows, and lavenders. It was a no-brainer--this fall season my grandkids would experience a little cultural diversity along with their Halloween candy.

According to, we owe the joys of pinata smashing mostly to China, where paper was invented, and Mexico, where pinatas were prominent in religious celebrations. With the Mayans (those fun lovers) the blindfold was added, and the pinata achieved party game status.

The various cultures differ in the symbolism they attribute to the pinata. The Chinese filled theirs with seeds to represent abundance, while some of the Mexican peoples broke clay pots filled with small ornaments as offerings to their gods.

In some later incarnations the pinata stood for evil for those wielding sticks to demolish, while other times participants "looked up" to the hanging pinata as a symbol of hope. Today, people all over the world break pinatas just for the pure fun of it. These papier mache creations bring to parties and celebrations a suspenseful game allowing adults to take out their frustrations in a socially acceptable way and children to simply wait for candy to drop from the sky.

Anyway, here you see Sooby, Pooh, Bootsie, and me with our clown while he was still intact. If you squint, you can see that Pa-pa has already established himself at a safe distance, and little Zoomie, in a burst of premonition, had already hightailed it out of Dodge.

The fifteen or so minutes following the snapping of this photo were a blur of swinging weapons and flying tissue paper. No children or adults were harmed in the execution of this activity, though, for the life of me, I will never figure out why.

However, I am sad to report that the little boat oar standing there so proudly beside Pooh did not survive the second round, during which Pooh smashed it unceremoniously into the floor. When it was replaced by the only handy thing--a metal pole--our insurance rates all went up a bit.

But eventually, primarily through damage inflicted by Sooby and Pooh, our clown littered the floor with candy and little boxes of raisins and apple juice. (I figured that, as the kids were recovering from any injuries, they would at least have some healthy snacks to speed along their convalescence.) The kids launched into "grabbing" mode, and, surprisingly, the plunder came out pretty well divided among the pirates.

Our pinata experience is one we will not soon forget. It was a lot of fun, or at least I think it was. Since we have all lived to tell about it, this is another one of those stories I expect to attain mythic proportions as we re-tell it through the years.


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