The Piñata, contrary to popular belief, did not originate in Marco Polo’s trip to China, nor in the Aztec “Feast of a Thousand Maggots”, or even in the deceptively similar Portuguese custom of bashing a donkey’s head in to get at the delicious brains inside. The roots of this tradition go far beyond these relatively recent traditions, all the way back to the Bronze Age, particularly Ancient Greece, and even more particularly to the aftermath of the Trojan War (known back then as “The Great War” and “Operation Trojan Freedom”).
The Trojans suffered humiliating defeat at the hands of the wily Greeks, by letting a giant wooden horse into their city, as if there was nothing was more natural for a retreating army to leave behind. This “Trojan Horse” was filled, much like New York’s F train on its last leg in Queens, with sweaty and hairy Greek men. These men snuck out at night and conquered the drunken revelers, much to the dismay of the wine merchants, who felt the night still had potential.
After the defeat, and the 30 or so years of failed occupation, Trojans have come to distrust Greeks, gifts, and horses. Thus we got such lasting sayings as “beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” “really, you shouldn’t have,” and “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, pull on its tail to see if it’s real” (which was later shortened, and thus corrupted, into “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”). Every year, the Trojans would commemorate their defeat in the war by building a similar wooden horse, wheeling it into the city again, but this time bashing it to shards with large sticks (Incidentally, the Southern tradition of re-enacting the Civil War with a different outcome drew inspiration from this event, though Southerners failed to learn anything from the Trojans’ high regard for literacy and personal hygiene). The Trojan tradition of placing the city’s mayor inside the horse was discontinued after only five years, when they found no one wished to be mayor anymore.
As time wore on, Trojans became lazier, the horse got smaller, and they would often let their children bash the horse for them, while they sat around, drinking and complaining about the heat. After a few years, famed philosopher Thiskethazos reasoned that blindfolding the children, hanging the horse from a tree, and filling it with treats, would keep the children occupied for even longer. This custom gradually traveled through Europe and on to the Americas, from one group of lazy men to another, until finally reaching its pinnacle in Mexico, where the piñata, as well as sitting around and drinking, were both perfected.
Two brief, mildly related, notes:
* Trojan Condoms are named so because, once used, they hold countless little soldiers yearning to conquer, much like the Trojan Horse (Ironically, the Greek army did not use such protection, bringing crippling syphilis back to Achaea after their encounter with the infamous Trojan Whores).
* The Statue of Liberty was devised as a modern Trojan Horse, in an ill-advised attempt to conquer the United States. When the French realized that they had forgotten to fill it with soldiers, they passed it off as a gift, but have been rude and condescending towards Americans ever since
Posted by S.K. Azoulay