Allison's Book Bag

Pinata Celebration

Posted on: August 25, 2014

This past spring, Rene Saldana Jr. had his first picture book published. Titled Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers, it is a bilingual counting book that follows a boy on the day of his birthday fiesta. According to his bio blurb, Saldana has broken enough pinatas that he has stopped having them for himself, but he still loves throwing fiestas for his children. I’ll review his book on August 26. Save the date!

AUTHOR BACKGROUND

Born and raised in Texas, Saldana still lives there with his wife, their children, and their pets. A perusal through his blog will reveal that he grew up loving to read. As a child, he most liked a character named Wet Albert. Later, in high school, The Count of Monte Cristo became the first novel he couldn’t book down since his elementary school days. Although he always enjoyed books, it wasn’t until college that he gave himself the permission to consider becoming an author. Even then, he viewed himself more as one in training rather than an actual writer. Now he is both a teacher of creative writing and a successful published author.

You can read more about his reading, writing, and teaching experiences at his blog:

BOOK BACKGROUND

Next month, I’ll be back with more reviews of Latino holiday picture books. For now, a little background about pinatas. According to Wikipedia, their origins seem to be Chinese. In the shape of a cow or an ox, the Chinese piñata was used for the New Year and meant to produce a favorable climate for the upcoming growing season. The pinata was decorated with symbols and colors, filled with seeds, and then hit with sticks. After the piñata was broken, the remains were burned and the ashes kept for good luck.

In the 14th century, the tradition came to Europe, where it was associated with the Christian celebration of Lent, and became a celebration known as the Dance of the Piñata. The Spanish initially used a plain clay container, before starting to decorate it with ribbons, tinsel and colored paper.

Later, in the 16th century, the tradition was brought to Mexico. Ironically, a similar tradition already existed here. The Aztec tradition commemorated the birthday of Huitzilopochtli, a deity of war. Priests would place a clay pot decorated with colorful feathers. When broken with a stick or club, the treasures inside would fall to the feet of the idol as an offering.

Pinata, Wikipedia Commons

Pinata
Wikipedia Commons

According to Go Mexico, the pinata was also used in Mexico for Christian celebrations. In this case, the original piñata was shaped like a star with seven points. The points represented the seven deadly sins, while the bright colors of the piñata symbolize temptation. The blindfold represents faith and the stick is virtue or the will to overcome sin. The candies and other goodies inside the piñata are the riches of the kingdom of heaven.

Over time, the piñata has lost its religious significance and become popular in many types of Mexican celebrations, including Christmas and birthdays, the latter of which is the focus of my review book. Each participant, usually a child, will have a turn at hitting the piñata, which is hung from above on a string. The participant is blindfolded, given a wooden stick, and then spun a number of times. As the participants works to hit the piñata, another moves it to make it harder to hit. There is a time limit to any one person’s attempts, which is marked out by the singing of a traditional song:

Hit it, hit it, hit it
Don’t lose your aim
Because if you lose it
You will lose your way

You hit it once
You hit it twice
You hit it three times
And your time is up

ONLINE SOURCES

Most of the online sites I browsed provided information similar to that which I’ve given above.

  • However, San Benito History expanded upon the symbols of the pinata and the occasions when the pinata is used.
  • Pinata History explained the folklore associated with the pinata.
  • And Kidzworld provides instructions on how to make a pinata.

Of possible interest too is a review of Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers by Latino Author.

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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