Commentary, Food Culture

Family, Friends, and Joy: New Years in the Andes or Far Away

Happy New Years from the Inca and from Us (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Happy New Years from the Inca and from Us (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The old is laid to bed and the new dawns. In the southern hemisphere, it is a brilliant day of summer, filled with flowers, bird song, and warmth. If the north claims you, it is short, dark, and cold where the sound is that of ice.

In any case, south or north, we just passed the solstice when the days either reach their longest point or their shortest, as the case may be. As one bespectacled gentleman told me in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas while saint’s market was being set up, “there is a reason santurantikuy takes place on the 24th. It is the solstice and the opposite of Inti Raymi, the Feast of the Sun.”

The solstices, whether the 21st, 24th (or even the 1st) mark those celestial moments of change, when the sun seems to pause and then reverse course. It gave the Andean world two times of new-ness when one cycle replaced the other.

With this still in my head, I saw on Facebook the cartoon that accompanies this post. It challenges the celebrations of last night that carried on until early this morning, with all their cábalas, actions to bring good fortune, and joy. It reminds people that the January New Year, stems from the the northern hemisphere and is the opposite, of an Andean new year, the Mosoj Wata or Machak Mara, which appears in the June solstice.

"Hey, Just so you know, the new year begins in June!"
“Hey, Just so you know, the new year begins in June!”

In this is a developing rejection of Europe and its ways, even when established around the planet, and an insistence on un-doing it, de-colonizing as the phrase goes.

At the moment, I am in the north, in the heart of Gringo-landia. Here last night was a celebration built on individualism, the choice of persons to celebrate the New Year, each in their own way. They could go to concerts, gather in squares, drink at home, or party with friends. No matter, it was their decision and the celebration built on that singularity of the person. It sees groups as a simply a combination of individual choices to be together, a kind of contract.

At the stroke of midnight in Peru, though it was only ten pm here, Skype and Facebook started sounding as friends and loved ones reached out, across hemispheres and national borders to wish me a Happy New Year and share their love.

Almost inevitably, they also wished that my celebration would be happy and mentioned “in family and among friends”.

This morning I see photos of extended families sitting down to dinner or groups of friends gathered together if they are away from their families. They populate my Facebook feed. Though people may choose to be together, it is not that act of election that matters, but the togetherness, the sharing of the moment, like the sharing of food, and the raising of a cup of champagne to toast a New Year.

Togetherness, family and friends, is the foundation of any cábala (act to bring good fortune) and made my New Years, even though in the individualist north and far from the people I love in Peru, a celebration of family and friends.

Neither differences in time, space, nor nation, could remove me from it.
Happy New Year, or Happy six-months after New Year. In any case, may the joy of family and friends sharing — the root of life in Cusco — be yours today.

 

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