Hitting a piñata during a posada (credit:N. Saum)
Few things identify Mexico like the piñata does. Believe it or not, the traditional piñata is a a syncretism between the Orient (via Europe) and indigenous traditions.
The modern Mexican piñata has its origins in the early colonial period, but there are a number of cultures which have similar traditions. Before the arrival of the Spanish, both the Mayans and the Aztecs had rituals in which an old, decorated, pot filled with offerings would be broken for a diety. The Mayan tradition even had those breaking the pot blindfolded.
The European tradition came to the continent from China, and was there associated with Lent, not Christmas. In the very early colonial period, the Spanish would co-opt certain native traditions and give them Christian meanings. The pot offering among the Aztecs was for the god Huitzilopochtli, whose birthday was celebrated in December. It…