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Few items will brighten a party like a piñata. Originally from Mexico, the piñata has grown in popularity throughout North America. This colorful toy can be shaped like animals, stars, flowers, vegetables, and clowns or just about anything you can imagine. Each Christmas in Mexico children will gather around a piñata that is suspended from the ceiling above their heads and after being blindfolded, take turns swinging at the piñata with a stick. When the piñata finally breaks open a cascade to treasures spill into the crowd of children below. In North America, piñatas are used for many occasions for both adults and children.

To make a piñata you will need newspaper, a large inflatable beach ball, petroleum jelly, masking tape, glue and a strong cord. The piñata can be colored with tempera, poster paint, acrylic paint or crepe paper strips. Begin by inflating the beach ball and tearing the newspaper into strips against a straight edge. You will not want to cut the strips of newspaper since the rough edges will cause the pieces to mesh to make a smoother surface. Cover the outside of the beach ball with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Next you will need to wet the strips of newspaper in a papier-mache concoction made by using white glue with an equal amount of water or one part wallpaper paste with ten parts water. If your piñata will be in an area where fire could be a hazard you will want to add 1 teaspoon of sodium phosphate, which is available at most drug stores, to the mixture. You can dip each strip individually in the glue, leaving it for a minute before applying it to the beach ball. Or you can use a sponge to apply the glue to each strip.

Apply each strip evenly around the ball one at a time. Be sure to leave a mouthpiece or small space open to allow for deflating and removal of the beach ball. When the ball is completely covered with the strips continue re-covering until you have approximately a ten-strip depth. Allow the entire ball of strips to dry thoroughly. You might want to tie a thin cord to the mouthpiece of the ball to do this. It can then be extended from a hook in the ceiling to dry. If you want to add facial features to your piñata you should add about 4 large sheets of newspaper torn in strips to one quart of water and allow it to sit over night. Before you begin you piñata, bring this mixture to a boil and allow it to boil for 20 minutes. Whip it with a whisk until the paper is soft and pulpy and then strain the pulp. Squeeze out some of the excess moisture and form the pulp into a soft, moist lump. Add 2 tablespoons of white glue and 2 tablespoons of wallpaper paste. Stir until there are not lumps and the pulp is the consistency of modeling clay. Model the facial features and allow to dry overnight and then glue them to your dried piñata.

When all of the piñata is thoroughly dried, deflate the beach ball and gently work free of the paper through the hole. Paint the piñata and then cut 3 to 4 inch wide strips of colored tissue paper or crepe paper and fold them in half-lengths. Cut through the folded edges every 1\4 inch and separate the paper into individual strips of fringe. The fringe can be glued to the piñata in parallel layers using one row to conceal the glued section of the preceding rows. Once this is dry, fill with candies and prizes. To close the hole you can use one of the facial features or masking tape. If you do this you will need to put the goodies inside before you paint the piñata. You will also need to attach a loop of string to the top so the cord can pass through it to hold the piñata in place. Some people allow the hole to be at the top of the piñata and glue pieces of string across the top to attach the cord that will hold it in place. When you hang the piñata, pass the cord over a hook or beam leaving enough cord so you can raise and lower the piñata.