Piñatas offer a cathartic whack at COVID-19

Elizabeth McCarthy glues "protein spikes" made out of paper straws and pompoms onto her coronavirus piñatas on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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Piñatas offer a cathartic whack at COVID-19

Elizabeth McCarthy glues "protein spikes" made out of paper straws and pompoms onto her coronavirus piñatas on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Elizabeth McCarthy, a nurse at Stanford Hospital, gets what it's like to want to smack the bejesus out of the coronavirus.

The Menlo Park resident has been taking care of patients with COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and knows better than most the anger and frustration that many people feel toward the invisible virus that has taken so many lives and derailed so many plans.

Now, she's offering a way for people to get that cathartic thrill as an artisan making handmade, biologically accurate piñatas shaped like the coronavirus.

Elizabeth McCarthy cuts paper she will use to decorate her coronavirus piñatas in her Menlo Park home on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The project creatively combines McCarthy's background as a nurse and as a crafty connoisseur of Mexican folk art. Before becoming a nurse, she was a cake decorator who specialized in creating sugar skulls celebrating Mexico's Day of the Dead.

After the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, she said, "I started thinking, people are going to start wanting to celebrate. What better way to celebrate the end of COVID than by having a COVID piñata where you can beat COVID with a stick?"

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Piñatas had long been associated with birthday celebrations in her household — as one of four children in her family, they were always a part of birthday parties, and the garage door that the family's piñatas were suspended over accumulated some scars over the years from blindfolded strikes missing their targets, she said.

After running across images of other coronavirus piñatas online, she said, she decided to try crafting her own.

"I saw some that looked poorly done, and as a nurse, they didn't look very accurate, either," she said.

Elizabeth McCarthy cuts paper she will use to decorate her coronavirus piñatas in her Menlo Park home on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Elizabeth McCarthy glues "protein spikes" made out of paper straws and pompoms onto her coronavirus piñatas on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

She developed a series of prototypes, honing the design over time. Cardboard turned out to be too stiff for the piñatas, while tissue paper was too flimsy. She found a certain type of paperboard to create the front and back, and made the sides with corrugated cardboard. It's stuck together with fiberglass-reinforced paper packing tape, like what comes on Amazon boxes, and some of the decorative elements, like textured, shiny crepe paper, are sourced from Italy. The red protein spikes are made of shiny red paper straws and pom pom balls, she said.

McCarthy says she's been advertising her piñatas on the neighborhood-based social media website Nextdoor and via flyers on her busy street in the Willows neighborhood.

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As a full-time nurse, her crafting time is limited, but she's been having fun with it — in contrast to what's otherwise been an awful year, she said.

"It's definitely been the worst year of my life, professionally," she said.

"My house is a piñata factory right now," she said. "It's just a great distraction. It's better than sitting and eating ice cream or any other vice."

Elizabeth McCarthy glues paper into the side of her coronavirus piñatas in her Menlo Park home on April 26, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As people get vaccinated and begin gathering with friends and loved ones again, she said, she's hoping that people use the piñatas to safely celebrate with one another.

"It's just been so much fun to think that people are going to be able to enjoy them and get their frustrations out — and celebrate the end of this, God willing."

McCarthy added that there's one person she definitely plans to send a coronavirus piñata to: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading expert on contagious diseases.

"He seems like the kind of guy who, I imagine, more than anyone, would get it on the first whack," she said.

People interested in purchasing a piñata from McCarthy can reach her at 650-328-2083. They cost $40 to cover the cost of materials, she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Piñatas offer a cathartic whack at COVID-19

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, May 2, 2021, 7:38 am

Elizabeth McCarthy, a nurse at Stanford Hospital, gets what it's like to want to smack the bejesus out of the coronavirus.

The Menlo Park resident has been taking care of patients with COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and knows better than most the anger and frustration that many people feel toward the invisible virus that has taken so many lives and derailed so many plans.

Now, she's offering a way for people to get that cathartic thrill as an artisan making handmade, biologically accurate piñatas shaped like the coronavirus.

The project creatively combines McCarthy's background as a nurse and as a crafty connoisseur of Mexican folk art. Before becoming a nurse, she was a cake decorator who specialized in creating sugar skulls celebrating Mexico's Day of the Dead.

After the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, she said, "I started thinking, people are going to start wanting to celebrate. What better way to celebrate the end of COVID than by having a COVID piñata where you can beat COVID with a stick?"

Piñatas had long been associated with birthday celebrations in her household — as one of four children in her family, they were always a part of birthday parties, and the garage door that the family's piñatas were suspended over accumulated some scars over the years from blindfolded strikes missing their targets, she said.

After running across images of other coronavirus piñatas online, she said, she decided to try crafting her own.

"I saw some that looked poorly done, and as a nurse, they didn't look very accurate, either," she said.

She developed a series of prototypes, honing the design over time. Cardboard turned out to be too stiff for the piñatas, while tissue paper was too flimsy. She found a certain type of paperboard to create the front and back, and made the sides with corrugated cardboard. It's stuck together with fiberglass-reinforced paper packing tape, like what comes on Amazon boxes, and some of the decorative elements, like textured, shiny crepe paper, are sourced from Italy. The red protein spikes are made of shiny red paper straws and pom pom balls, she said.

McCarthy says she's been advertising her piñatas on the neighborhood-based social media website Nextdoor and via flyers on her busy street in the Willows neighborhood.

As a full-time nurse, her crafting time is limited, but she's been having fun with it — in contrast to what's otherwise been an awful year, she said.

"It's definitely been the worst year of my life, professionally," she said.

"My house is a piñata factory right now," she said. "It's just a great distraction. It's better than sitting and eating ice cream or any other vice."

As people get vaccinated and begin gathering with friends and loved ones again, she said, she's hoping that people use the piñatas to safely celebrate with one another.

"It's just been so much fun to think that people are going to be able to enjoy them and get their frustrations out — and celebrate the end of this, God willing."

McCarthy added that there's one person she definitely plans to send a coronavirus piñata to: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading expert on contagious diseases.

"He seems like the kind of guy who, I imagine, more than anyone, would get it on the first whack," she said.

People interested in purchasing a piñata from McCarthy can reach her at 650-328-2083. They cost $40 to cover the cost of materials, she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 2, 2021 at 10:29 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 10:29 am

Great job here by Nurse McCarthy and what a fun idea! The pinatas look amazing. $40 for one seems a little steep as a lot of people have been hurting financially. I understand the price though because of the cost of materials. What a fun idea for a way to kick off post vaccination and/or post pandemic life. It’s very symbolic obviously. It would be absolutely classic to send one to Dr. Fauci but don’t give him one for free. Make Dr. Fauci pay(or even pay double for a profit) like everyone else please unless he is willing to give your pinatas a plug on national television to help boost sales. You have to know how to run a business these days. Amazing work and also thank you for taking care of Covid patients during your work as a nurse and I’m sorry you have had such a tough year. This has inspired me to make a few pinatas in the likenesses of some of the vapid commenters that annoy me here at the weekly so I can “smack the bejesus out of them” in a nice way to get my frustrations out at home. Thank you.


No Loss
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 2, 2021 at 11:15 am
No Loss, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 11:15 am

Back in 2017, the Donald Trump pinatas were a big seller and easily procured in the various Hispanic communities.

Easy to caricature and fun to whack.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on May 2, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 5:57 pm

A "cathartic whack." Too funny. The same reason we leave comments. $40.00 for a pinata is charging for your time. The material costs aren't high. I'd give Dr. Fauci one for free. Word of mouth -- he'll tell two friends and so on and so. Consider it a "loss leader" and keep in mind he knows people with a little extra money in their pocket...


MP Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park
on May 3, 2021 at 11:23 am
MP Resident, Menlo Park
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 11:23 am

We have purchased 5 piñatas from Elizabeth in recent months for various occasions and gifts. The pure joy and hysterical laughter ‘beating’ covid has brought us has been the cheapest therapy around. Thank you for offering this priceless moment of levity and for your work on the frontlines as a nurse.


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