Cinco de Mayo is a day set aside to celebrate Mexico’s monumental victory over the French in 1862. On May 5, Mexicans celebrate with parties, parades, and other festivities. Even if you don’t have Hispanic heritage, you can celebrate with these activities:
Items needed: Large brown paper bag with flat bottom; scissors; pencil; ruler; old newspaper; paintbrushes; tempera paints (bright colors); hole punch; colored yarn cut in six-inch pieces.
Directions: Open up the large bag and cut straight up the back seam. About two-thirds of the way up the bag, branch out into a “V,” gradually shifting to an arch shape when you reach the bottom of the bag so your head and shoulders can fit through. On both sides of the bag cut out armholes measuring approximately four-inches long by five-inches wide. Place the paper serape over old newspaper and paint the outside with large, bright stripes using different colored paints. When dry, punch holes about one-half inch from the bottom edge, making them one-inch apart. String three pieces of yarn through each hole and tie in a knot.
Items needed: Two Popsicle sticks; different colors of yarn; scissors; glue.
Directions: Place Popsicle sticks together to form a “plus” sign, then glue together to make the frame. Let dry. Working in order, assign a number (1, 2, 3, 4) to each of the four sides. Take a long piece of yarn and wrap it around side 1, tie a knot in the back to secure, and push close to the center of the frame. Wrap the free end of that piece of yarn around side 2, close to the center frame. Repeat this step with sides 3 and 4, so the yarn is back to side 1. Continue to wrap around each side, making sure you always wrap in the same direction and pushing the yarn close together. After about 10 rotations, tie off the yarn and change to a new color, following the same procedure. Use three colors or more until the frame is full.
Directions: Cut tissue paper into rectangles measuring six- by eight-inches. Stack eight pieces of tissue paper, then take the long side of the stack and begin making accordion pleats that are approximately three-fourths inch wide. Wrap one end of the pipe cleaner around the center of the accordion-pleated paper. Twist to secure in place. Carefully separate paper layers, pulling them up toward the center. Repeat to make more flowers.
Directions: Fill the paper bag about one-third full of goodies. Crumble up old newspapers to add fullness and finish filling the bag. Fold down the bag opening and staple shut. Punch two holes along the top. Cut strips of tissue paper that fit all the way around the bag. Fringe strips to about half way up the width of the tissue paper. Starting at the bottom of the bag, glue the tissue paper in place. Repeat with different colored tissue paper, gluing from the bottom up until the entire bag is covered. Tie a long string through the two top holes to hang the piñata. Glue long pieces of crepe paper from the bottom.
• “De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children” by Jose-Luis Orozco.
• “Horse Hooves and Chicken Feet: Mexican Folktales” by Neil Philip.
• “Cooking the Mexican Way” by Rosa Coronado.
• “Mexico & Central America: A Fiesta of Cultures, Crafts, and Activities for Ages 8–12” by Mary C. Turck.
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and grandmother of four.
Since that time, Cinco de Mayo has become a celebratory event amongst Mexicans and even Americans. Festivities include parades, parties, carnivals, battle reenactments, cultural food, mariachi music, and folk dancing. The country’s colors — red, white, and green — are also an integral part of the celebration.