I can still remember the excitement I felt the first time I hit a piñata and its candy contents showered onto the floor. At La Piñateria in Mérida I had to resist the strong temptation to relive my childhood by swinging at dozens of candy-stuffed creations. Good thing there wasn’t a stick in sight!

Centerpieces of Christmas and birthday celebrations, piñatas come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. From Spongebob to a raging bull, it seems like nothing is off limits when it comes to designing piñatas. But, what is the origin of the piñata?

In México, following the Spanish conquests, piñatas were crafted into stars with seven points, each point representing a deadly sin. The stars were used to help teach the Catholic religion to the natives. Taking a swift whack at these seven-pointed stars symbolized striking away evil and sin, while the candy inside represented the rewards of accepting the Catholic faith. Today, of course, piñatas simply make for added fun at a fiesta with an oh-so-sweet ending.

The Quinceañera is another tradition taking place when a girl turns fifteen. This celebration symbolizes a girl’s transition into adulthood. The quinceñera is believed to draw from both ancient Aztec rites of passage and European traditions. Following the conquest, the Spanish forced many religious beliefs on to the native people. One of these required a girl, on her fifteenth birthday, to devote her life to the Catholic church or to marry. Today, thankfully, girls celebrating their fifteenth birthday’s are no longer required to make this huge decision.

The quinceañera is both a religious event and a social event with the religious portion comprised of a church Mass or prayer ceremony for the girl and her family. The social event is usually a large banquet or party to celebrate the day.

Dress shopping is arguably the most important part of the pre-Quinceañera activities. Bright and sparkly dresses fill shop windows in México demonstrating the high demand for the perfect dress. The color and style of a girl’s Quinceañera gown establishes the theme of the celebration including, the decor, invitations, and party favors.

Although I’m not preparing for my fifteenth birthday, I did try on a few dresses. With tulle, lace, and satin everywhere, I had a great time imagining the excitement of preparing for a quinceañera.