Dolls and Misfortune Flame Tonight

In Cuzco, the end of one year and the beginning of another, draws on different kinds of customs. Some get lost with time. New ones appear. There is constant change according to the society of the moment. One of the most popular customs, but one under attack, is the burning of dolls around midnight.

When that clock marks the end of one year and the beginning of another people fill the moment with hopes and desires. They want the new year to be better than the year that has passed. They hope to get rid of any bad fortune. To do that they try to send all the bad up in smoke when they burn the doll.

To make this work, they gather their old clothes to make the doll and they dive it the form of a man or a woman. It almost always takes the form of public figures such as Peruvian celebrities and especially politicians.

To make the doll look very real they put a face on it, often using a mask. They dress it well so that it looks impeccable for the feast of the New Year. They they take it into the street so that it enters into the spirit of the celebration. The it is lit on fire and burned. Families gather around it to enjoy the heat in Cuzco’s cold nights while they await the New Year.

Drawing a Face on the Doll
Drawing a Face on the Doll

In some neighborhoods they burn a single doll for everyone. But sometimes you see a variety of groups of people gathered tonight in the streets, gathered around a doll. The tell each other anecdotes about what has happened this year which has brought many memories, tears, laughter, uncertainty, hurt feelings. They bring together the whole mixture of feelings that formed our lives this year. They summarize them, they remember them, and try to leave them behind.

They to this furthermore to open room for hope to return and for there to be new goals and new dreams as they bring the year to conclusion, No matter how good or bad the old year was, they clear it out to give them hope for a better new year.

As a result, people await the new year in the midst of laughter and good wishes, the warmth of a fire. Even children are up and enjoying the event while playing with the firecrackers and sparklers that seem omnipresent this time of year.

The Doll Named Ñuñunca
The Doll Named Ñuñunca

Right before twelve midnight, people raise a glass of champagne to taost the new year. Once it arrive the city enters into a crazy stage of absolute festivity and joy. It is at that time that all the dolls should be completely consumed by flame. Afterwards people go into their homes to continue the celebration.

There are also different cabalas, as they are called, or customs to bring good luck, that people do at midnight. Since they say that how you spend New Years Eve tells how you will spend the rest of the year, people will walk around with suitcases so they can travel. Others will not eat chicken or turkey because they say it is a bad fortune for their economy. Others eat twelve grapes in succession while making a wish to be fulfilled this year while eating each one

Ñuñunca on Fire
Ñuñunca on Fire

Other people continue the celebration in the street. The city fills at that moment with smoke. Because of that there are many customs that are changing. The environmentalists have raised protests against this custom of burning things because it generates much pollution in our mountain valley. Many talks and expositions have been made recommending people respect the environment and the public health by not burning things.

Some people try to eradicate this custom to protect our environment, but others see nothing wrong with the fires and smoke just this one day of the year.

What ever the case is where you are, we at Cuzco Eats wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Burning Shoes at the Very End
Burning Shoes at the Very End

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