Every year at our annual family Christmas party, we have a pinata for the kids. If you've never done this before, I highly reccomend it- it's extremely entertaining. Picture this scene: fifty or so kids crowded around a paper mache Snowman head hanging from a broom stick, and a two year old with a hockey stick. Actually it's not the two year old that scares me, it's the eight year old with wild, gleaming eyes, a sugar-high from frosted cookies, and a plastic bag for gathering loot shoved in his back pocket that makes me want to pull out my camera and run for cover at the same time. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever gotten seriously hurt. Yet.
So, the kids are given Walmart bags that have their names written on them in black marker. These things are like gold to them- they are very careful to inspect them- making sure they've received the right bag and that no holes exist in the bottom. Then, there's always some shouting and arguing as the kids are told to line up from younest to oldest (we draw the line somewhere around the age of 12, I believe). The one year old who can barely stand is handed the hockey stick or wooden spoon or whatever the weapon of the year is. Each kid gets one or two hits, and as the stick gets handed further down the line the volume in the room increases with age. By the time the older boys get ahold of the thing, the moms are yelling out warnings, "Stand back! Watch where you're swinging! Move away!". The one or two year olds are hiding their faces in their dad's shoulders- appaled that they were expected to take place in such behavior. It's like a feast for wild dogs. The moms stand on edge certain someone is going to be missing a tooth or an eye before it's all said and done.
Then, one lucky kid breaks it open and out spills a mass of candy and cheap trinkets. The moms who can now breathe a slight sigh of relief with the weapon forgotten, dump out more bags of stuff that wouldn't fit into the pinata. Kids are scrambling everywhere- no one worries about gender specific items like headbands or matchbox cars- there's plenty of time to negotiate trades later. When the last pencil is snatchted up, the kids retreat to various corners of the room to spill out their loot and begin the trading process.
This tradition has been around since long before I can remember. Growing up, I participated in my share of pinatas. As an adult, it's easy to think little things like this aren't that important, but they are. Sure- most of the stuff eventually ends up lost, tossed, or forgotten. But in that moment, for that short time, it is pure excitement. A tradition that will hopefully continue to live on in our family. Some things are just too good to let go!