I had never really pondered pinatas until my first child started attending toddler birthday parties. My husband and I quickly grew to loathe and dread them. We abstain from them at our own children's birthday parties.
The worst pinatas are ones which are shaped like cute kittens or pretty princesses or lovable cartoon characters. You present small children with something fragile and lovable, and then tell them to beat the hell out of it with a stick. It seems a lot less offensive when the children are whaling on Darth Vader or a T Rex with a baseball bat than when they are going after a Powerpuff Girl or a sweet mermaid.
Apart from the beating-a-kitten-with-a-stick aspect, pinatas encourage pushing and shoving and greediness. My eldest daughter was a very shy and quiet girl, who was easily intimidated physically. At parties, she would usually score absolutely nothing from a pinata and end up in tears, while the rowdiest, most-given-to-early-bullying boys had overflowing pockets. Some parents, aware of this dynamic, try to remedy it by taking away candy from the haves to redistribute to the have-nots, but this results in no small amount of resentment upon the part of the haves.
After one birthday party, our then four-year old was crying because she hadn't gotten any candy from the pinata, and Anton offered to stop by a store and buy her a bag of candy to make up for it. But she didn't want a bag of candy from the store, she wanted that specific candy that the other children had grabbed in front of her. There was no consoling her.
Then there are the pinata contents. Usually it's the worst forms of candy, but I can take that. The real problem is all the stupid little plastic toys people put in. The one thing we have a surplus of here is little plastic objects. I do, however, like it when there are temporary tattoos, as I don't mind those. Stickers, though, make me shudder. My children put them everywhere, including on the dining room table and walls, and the little sticker back is an iniquitous form of trash. Don't even try to put in little boxes of raisins; we were at one party where the parents had admirably attempted that, but the children scornfully refused to even pick them up off the floor.
Finally, small children are generally highly incompetent at breaking pinatas. Usually the parents of the birthday child get impatient and break the pinata open themselves, which seems to somewhat miss the point.
glad to read this!! I will note not to have a pinata at Michael's 3rd birthday in August!
I am SO with you on this! I remember feeling dread and anxiety at the thought of having to participate in pinata lynching. Some parents put blindfolds on kids which is even worse. There you are, blindfolded and being screamed and laughed at while the pinata is raised and you fumble about, whacking the air helplessly. I felt the same about "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" which also involves a blindfold and adults screaming at you: "Higher, no left, no higher..." etc.
From Wikipedia: In the Mexican Catholic celebration of Christmas, the piñata is traditionally shaped like a seven-pointed star which represents the devil and the seven deadly sins, while the contents are the goods or blessings he is withholding. Striking the devil with faith, symbolized by being blindfolded, releases the blessings.
This ritual has a much different meaning then the "beat the heck out of Spongebob until he explodes with candy."
Both party practices need to be rethought. Surely kids receive enough sweets at most birthday parties and there is absolutely no reason we should be promoting an appropriated ritual and the equation: violence = rewards.
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