If you cannot join, beat. Such is the resolve of creative people bashing piñatas to defeat a pandemic (or at least, excise some of their feelings about it).
In Durham, N.C., Xaris Martínez, 37, a historian at the Center for Documentaries at Duke University, used tinfoil and toilet paper rolls to fabricate a “true-to-life” coronavirus piñata for the lonely 33rd birthday of her friend Haley Schomburg. “She’s an extrovert — if this wasn’t happening, it would’ve been an event,” Ms. Martínez said.
The toilet paper rolls were painted red, a reference to the now well-known image of the virus rendered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed a gray ball with red spike proteins sticking out of it. The reference was not lost on Ms. Schomburg, who has been on the pandemic’s front line as an emergency department technician.
Ms. Martínez and several other friends left the piñata, packed with treats and toiletries, on Ms. Schomburg’s porch, along with a six-pack of Corona Extra, limes, N-95 masks, toilet paper and a Dolly Parton record. “I’m so grateful for friends who are willing to show love in such fun and unique ways,” Ms. Schomburg said. “Especially in this unprecedented season of our lives.”
Ms. Martínez isn’t the only one constructing coronavirus piñatas for cathartic destruction at (necessarily) underattended birthday parties. It helps that the novel coronavirus structurally resembles a piñata, but at least one family has retrofitted a Corona Extra beer piñata for the occasion.
“I think it’s very healthy,” said Matthew Field, 43, the British ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the phone from his residence in Sarajevo. Mr. Field’s son Milo recently turned 10 under the country’s strict lockdown. “There was no prospect of a party,” Mr. Field said. “When I asked what he wanted, he said: ‘A coronavirus piñata to smash to bits.’”
By that time, the boy — having developed a taste for piñatas in Brazil, where they are a party fixture and where his father was last posted — had not been allowed to leave the house for three weeks. Mr. Field, his wife, and their younger son created a homemade papier-mâché pathogen, strung it from a plum tree in their yard, and gave Milo a mask (for his eyes) and a baseball bat. Milo took it from there.
“I’m in craft mode,” said Rachel Yoder, a novelist in Iowa. “I have a 5-year-old. I had a balloon.” For her husband’s birthday, Ms. Yoder, 41, covered the balloon in newspaper that she’d borrowed from neighbors and dipped it in a paste of water and flour.
She interpreted the virus’s protrusive spikes with tufts of red tissue paper left over from Christmas, and filled up the corona’s hollow with sparkly pompoms and unshelled nuts. A single whack brought the mean thing down.
Like most makers of coronavirus piñatas, Ms. Yoder was unaware that she was part of a mini trend. “And then I saw on Instagram that my friend Jen Percy made one!” she said. The two women laughed about that. (They messaged back and forth: “Miss you!” and “Miss you too, JP. So much!”)
Ms. Percy, 36, a journalist, had created a “coroñata” for her boyfriend’s birthday in Brooklyn. “It functioned like one of those anger rooms where you go to bash things,” she said, citing the couple’s exasperation over the Trump administration, and the need for some delight. She stuffed the piñata with slips of paper that prescribed activities for the couple to do together. “Make s’mores on the roof and pretend we’re camping, for example,” she said.
Others are buying their virus-shaped piñatas from pros.
Rocina Jimenez, 55, an owner of J&R Party, in Los Angeles, has temporarily closed shop but is offering $35 virus piñatas for local delivery. The store has already sold about 50, she said.
On Amazon, one vendor has run out of its $29.99 version, formed like Apple’s slime-green germ emoji, with bat silhouettes pasted on. “Catch the candy not the virus,” the product description reads.
And Lilia Barba, 37, who sells handmade party decorations through her Etsy shop, Craftophologie, said business is booming, in part because of the drive-by parties that have become popular in suburbs like her own, outside Chicago. A pandemic theme is en vogue right now, and Ms. Barba — anticipating demand — is at work on a design for smaller-scale virus piñatas that could serve as goody bags.
People have also bought and wrought coronavirus piñatas for an unknown date: for when the outbreak is in the past; for when we can throw celebratory “after-parties,” the more the merrier.
Ms. Schomburg is saving her coroñata for such an occasion. So is Katie Hanlon, 27, a schoolteacher in Southhampton, England. “It’s hanging in my window at the moment,” she said, dreamily. Ditto Steven Limon, 29, a delivery driver who scored his last month at a piñateria in Mexicali, Mexico.
Jocelyn Warren, 51, a public health administrator in Eugene, Ore., said that when she made one, “the ‘after’ seemed more imminent.” She added: “Now it’s rather vague.” Until better times, the gigantic germ is waiting in her department’s emergency operations center.
It should be said that this kind of destructive creativity can help people cope with uncertainty. After they smashed their coronavirus piñata, Monica Wideman, 37, of St. Louis asked her kids, “‘Do you feel better now? And the answer was ‘Yes.’”
Peggy Drexler, a research psychologist in Manhattan, wrote in an email: “Hitting something (that should be hit, like a punching bag or a piñata) produces a physiological response that helps relieve tension and work through negative feelings (and, possibly, overcome them).”
“I was really wanting to pummel something,” said Natasha McCagg, a yoga instructor in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories, who made three piñatas with her daughters, who are 9 and 15. (“It came to me after my daily meditation,” she added.)
They wrecked one piñata, Ms. McCagg, 44, said. The remaining two are going to health care workers.
“Maybe it’ll be a movement, hey?” she said. “Because the next big problem is going to be the mental health fallout. There is joy in destruction.”