Friday, May 24
Friday, December 24, 2010|
Christmas Eve - Early
The Dance of the Piñata
Celia was becoming more and more excited each day. Christmas was drawing near and she could hardly wait for Las Posadas and the fiesta. She loved the music, the food and especially the piñata! It was the most fun thing that they did each year – each child was blindfolded and while music played he or she got to take a stick and try to hit the dancing piñata so that it would break open and spill out all the wonderful treats! It was always so much fun.
Her grandmother used to tell Celia about Las Posadas in their village when she lived in Mexico. There the entire town would follow the people dressed to play the Holy Family; Mary on a burro and Joseph leading them door to door, asking “do you have a place for us to stay tonight. My wife is great with child’.
“No” would come the answer again and again. “We do not have room for you. Our house is full.” It was to remind everyone of the story of the night that Jesus was born; How Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem because they had to enroll in the census. While they were there, it was time for Mary to give birth to the baby, but they could not find a place to stay because there were so many people in town. Celia knew the story by heart, “while they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Celia had been born in a bright, shiny hospital, just like her younger brother Nando. It was just down the street from their church and she had seen it many times. She wondered what it would be like to be born in a cave, in a stable, with animals all around rather than doctors and nurses. And how cold it must have been, being winter and all! And how smelly it must have been to be in a manger, a feed trough, with animals all around! She knew how smelly it was to change the kitty litter in their laundry room and she couldn’t imagine being a new baby in such a place as that.
Celia’s grandmother told her about one Christmas when grandmother was a little girl, when they were all walking through the little village, going door to door behind the Holy Family, and hearing the same response “no we don’t have room” and how, finally, at one of the doors, the Holy Family asked the same question and the answer was “Yes, you can stay here with us, and all of your friends too!” And that was the place where they were to have the fiesta – the Christmas Eve party that would welcome everyone.
Her grandmother told her about the food; frijoles negros, tacos and tamales, and sweet sopapillas with powdered sugar for dessert. MMMM.
Then all the children went to the town square where the lovely piñata was hanging from a rope. It was so pretty – 5 points like a star – maybe the star of Bethlehem, decorated in so many colors, hiding those delicious treats. Celia knew the sight and feeling well – even though her fiesta piñata was not hanging in the village square but rather from a hook in her family’s basement.
But now Celia was 8 years old. There were many children in her family besides her brother, cousins mostly, who were much younger and far more excited about Christmas than she was. She still loved the custom of the piñata; the bright colors and the treasures it held. But she was now a young lady. She would let the younger children have a turn first before she took her turn, trying to strike the dancing piñata and make it open.
And it was because she was 8 that her grandmother sat down with her a few days before Christmas. “Celia” she said. “I would like to tell you more about the tradition of Las Posadas and especially about the tradition of the piñata.”
Celia was a bit puzzled. “The piñata? “ She said. “I thought that was just a fun thing for the kids to do to get special treats.”
“Oh, it is” said her grandmother. “But there is more to the tradition than simply that. I want to tell you all about the piñata and why we have it as part of our fiesta. The true piñata has 5 points on it, like the five points of the star of David. You remember, don’t you, that King David was the great King of Israel and the bible tells us he was the great-great-great-great grandfather of Jesus. The five points are reminders of our catechism, of what we believe as Christians”
Grandmother continued “the first word to remember is hope. During Advent we remembered that the people of God had hoped for a messiah, a savior. They hoped that he would be born. But it took many hundreds of years before it actually happened. And when it did, Jesus was born in a stable, not in a great palace. Hope came to us as a baby, then as a man who lived the life we all lived. Hope is the fact that we wait for Jesus to return. “
Celia thought again about the manger in the stable with the animals and realized it was truly amazing that the son of God would be born that way.
Then her grandma said “the second word is faith. Do you know why the children wear a blindfold? It reminds us that we are to have faith, even when we cannot see God or when we feel like God is far away from us. Faith allows us to believe even when it seems impossible that God could come to us as a wee baby.
“Hope and Faith” said Celia. “I know those words from going to church.”
“That’s right” said Celia’s grandmother. “And the third word is charity. Charity means that all are equal in God’s sight and that we share with one another, we share the blessings that come to us. So when that piñata finally bursts open and spills out all of the wonderful gifts inside, we make sure that everyone has some. It is the same way in life. Jesus teaches us charity, so that those who have much will share with those who do not have enough. God tells us that there is enough for all. The only problem is that some have more than they need – so others go without. Just think if the older boys pushed all of you younger children out of the way and took all the prizes for themselves. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?”
“Oh, I can push those boys out of the way –don’t you worry Grandma.” Said Celia. “I would make sure that Nando gets some of the prizes as well.”
“Then Celia, you are practicing charity – the third important thing that the points of the piñata remind us about.”
“Grandma, I understand; hope, faith, charity. Those are important things indeed” said Celia. “ But Grandma – what about the treats inside – are those like the gifts we get from one another at Christmas – like the gifts the Wise Men brought to baby Jesus.”
“Oh, no” said Grandma. “Those are the gifts are temptations; they remind us of all the things there are to keep us from faith, and hope, and especially from Charity! They remind us of the picados; the sins we all have. We are greedy, we get angry with one another, we want things that belong to other people, and we make ourselves more important that we are. That is why you use the stick to fight off the devil, the way Jesus taught us to do. Jesus died because of our sins and Jesus wants us to believe that the devil is defeated; those picados have no more power over us. So go ahead, pound on that piñata, break it apart, show that devil who has won in the end!”
Celia had no idea that this lovely piñata meant so many things: faith, grace, love, hope, charity, Jesus sacrifice to defeat the devil, our joy knowing that because of Jesus, we are saved from those sins. And after all that learning – there are treats to be had too. The piñata was a lovely thing, a wonderful thing, a joyous part of the fiesta and now an important part of Celia’s understanding of Christmas. What a wonderful night! What a wonderful party. Amen