Making a Pinata

by Catherine Fournier

The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 is celebrated in Mexico and the United States. On this feast day, large processions enter the beautiful basilica in Mexico City with flowers, banners, and singing meant to symbolize the singing of birds heard by Juan Diego at the first apparition of Mary.

It is a special feast day for families too. Families gather together for parties at which Mexican food and pinatas are featured. Children love pinatas for several reasons.
First, they are bright and colourful.
Second, they are full of candy and small prizes.
Third, normal rules of behaviour encouraging sharing and gentleness are suspended and the children are allowed to scramble for as much candy as they can reach.
Fourth, it's something that they are allowed to break! They can hit it as hard as they want!

Pinatas are easy to make, though they require a few days and some planning ahead. This is always difficult, especially at this time of year, but the results are worth it!

To make a good sized pinata, you will need:

  • A LARGE round balloon or beach ball
  • A good pile of old newspapers
  • White glue or flour and water to make a paste
  • Scissors
  • Tape (regular or masking)
  • Thin cardboard
  • Crayons, markers, poster paint
  • Tissue paper or construction paper
  • String or yarn
  • A craft knife
  • Goodies to fill the Pinata - this should include candy of course, but also could include holy cards, medals, and other small items like balls, pencils, toy cars, stamps and stamp pads, and anything else that catches your imagination.
Step One

Spread newspapers or plastic sheeting over your work surface. Blow up the balloon or beach ball and tie a knot at the end. Tear newspapers into strips about 1 inch wide and about 6 inches long. Tearing rather than cutting is important, it helps the strips lie flat on top of each other. Pour some of the glue into a disposable bowl or a bowl you don't mind soaking in water for a long while, or mix flour and cold water to make a paste the consistency of thick glue. Dip the newspaper strips into the glue and spread them onto the balloon. Thoroughly cover the balloon, leaving a small hole at the top to remove the balloon and fill the pinata. Let the first layer dry.

Step Two

Repeat Step One two more times, until the papier mache is built up to a good thickness. Next day if the paper feels dry when you touch it, then wrap the balloon with the yarn to give it strength to hold when swinging it.Add another two layers of glue and newspapers. Let it dry for another day. Remove the balloon.

Decorating the Pinata:

Traditional shapes for the pinata include donkeys (for the donkey that carried Mary), fish (symbolizing Christ) and birds (for the birds that sang when Mary appeared to Juan Diego). Roll the cardboard to make legs and a head for the donkey, then build up the shape with more papier mache. Shape a cone for the head and tail of a fish, then add fins and eyes. Use additional layers of papier mache to make it more 'fish like'. A similar technique will create a bird body, onto which can then be added wings, legs and a tail. When the shape is finished and dry, fill the pinata with candy and goodies, and cover the hole with a few layers of paper.

A simpler pinata can be made as a ball with decorated papier mache cones sticking out all over it. Paper streamers hang from the cones.

Then paint the pinata. Pinatas should be bright and colourful. Crepe paper streamers cut up with a fringe can be curled up with the help of the pencil, and glued onto the pinata. Start from the bottom and layer them overlapping. Decorate the cones with the crepe paper, adding strings to the tips.

Playing the Pinata Game.

Hang the pinata up from the ceiling. Each child gets a turn trying to break the pinata. Blindfold the child and give them a stick (a broom handle works well). Turn the child around in a circle 2 or 3 times and point him or her in the direction of the pinata. The child gets to swing the stick 2 or 3 times. Make sure everyone else stands clear of the swinging stick, including the grown-ups!!! Then another child gets a turn. When someone breaks the pinata, all the children get to gather the goodies. You might want to have little paper bags with each child's name on them so the kids have a place to store their goodies for the remainder of the party and a way to carry everything home.

Happy Feast Day!

Book related to this story ...
get the book at
Guadalupe Our Lady of New Mexico: Three Centuries of Devotion by Jacqueline Orsini Dunnington
Price $31.50

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