How do you celebrate Latin America the arrival of New Year?
Each country has different ways of celebrating the old year who leaves and welcome a new one. In the popular imagination, it is a ritual which serves to close a cycle and start another on the right foot.
Some of them are similar to each other, with one or another variant depending on the country.
And others are standardized throughout the region, based on traditions from other countries.
Some rituals are well known, such as the famous 12 grapes that you have to swallow one for every stroke at midnight while making a wish.
There are also those they put a bill in their pocket or put a coin in their shoe so that there is no shortage of money in the coming year.
And there is no one who is missing the one who gives a walk around the block with a suitcase to ensure a year in which trips are not lacking. there are those who even do this ritual with their passport in hand.
Known or not, or similar or different, all these rituals have one point in common: try to start the new year with prosperity. There are those who ask for money, others for health or the love they so long for; and others who do it for fun or just “just in case.”
Which of these are the lesser known rituals?
Throwing water out the window …
Water is a powerful catalyst for change and renewal. But in some countries you have to be careful not to get a bucket of water on your head if you are walking down the street on the last day of the year.
In Uruguay it is celebrated “el baldazo”, which is throwing a bucket full of water out the window into the street. This tradition is said to chase away the sorrows of the year that is ending and welcome one full of prosperity.
As it is summer in the southern cone, many people don’t take it seriously and see it more as a game (or something annoying depending on whether you are the person who launches or receives the water).
Other versions skimp on the quantity and instead of a bucket they throw a glass or a “bombita”, a balloon filled with water.
In Cuba something similar is called “the cubazo”, which, as in Uruguay, consists of throwing a bucket of water through windows and balconies. This has two objectives: to clean the energies and to give fun to the neighbors.
… and papers
Another variant of water is throwing papers out the windows. In Uruguay it is also customary to throw away the old calendars (or almanacs) already broken or burned.
This may be due to the tradition of getting rid of everything old to make room for the new objects that the new year will bring.
They do not necessarily have to be calendars. In some countries they tend to clean the house thoroughly as a purifying act, be it those shoes that you no longer use or something you don’t need.
In other places there are those who sweep the house, making sure to dust from the inside out through the door. But you have to make sure you clean every corner as deeply as possible to avoid that the energies of the old year remain in the house.
The burning of the year and “the widows”
Like water, fire is an element that means renewal or purification.
In many Latin American countries, burn a doll or puppet made from flammable materials, such as paper, sawdust, and old clothing.
In Ecuador, the “burning of the old year” is popular, a practice with origins in colonial times that consists of burning a doll. This can represent a famous person, either real or fictional, such as a politician or the protagonist of a movie.
This tradition is accompanied by “the widows”, men dressed as women with exaggerated makeup and wigs who “cry” for “the old man” as they walk through the traffic asking for a collection that they will later use for the party.
Minutes before midnight, the will is read, prepared with a lot of humor and satire, amid the cries of pain from the widows. People attend celebrated by doing other rituals, such as the twelve grapes and the suitcase ride.
In the north of Chile, on the other hand, the “Burning Monkeys”, which are huge figures of recycled paper and old objects that symbolize the bad experiences of the year to come.
The practice of burning dolls also extends to Nicaragua (where it is called “El viejo”), Colombia, Peru, Mexico and some areas of Venezuela and Argentina.
Another variant that is practiced in many countries, much simpler, is to write a number of wishes for the New Year (usually three) on a piece of paper, or to write down the bad of the old year, and burn it at midnight with the respective precautions.
Lentils, but not just to eat
If you want to have good fortune, you must eat lentils. This food is believed to signify not only good health but also fortune.
There are those who do not limit themselves to just eating them. There are also people who seek put lentils in those places where there is usually money, like the pockets of the clothes or the wallet.
There are also those who greet the New Year by hugging their loved ones with a handful of lentils in hand, or those who place these beans in the corners of the house to ensure that good luck reaches the home.
The custom is not limited only to lentils but also to different types of grains, such as rice. They are placed on a plate with a candle that is left lit during the night of the 31 and then they are buried.
Many people believe that lentils remind them of the coins of Ancient Rome and that is why the custom that comes from Italy.
Although people do not rely only on having a handful of lentils or rice nearby to call for luck and money.
In Mexico there are people who are used to give sheep considering that it is an animal that brings happiness (not in vain, Mexicans refer to money as “wool” informally).
In Costa Rica, people also usually carry a branch of Santa Lucia, a purple-flowered plant believed to bring good luck. It is placed in wallets and bags so that there is no shortage of money.
How will the weather be?
If you are in Mexico or Colombia, you may know what cabañuelas are, which in some parts of Spain are known as temporas.
But in case you don’t know what they are, it is a traditional method of weather forecast. And many people, believing in their veracity, look at them to know what the climate of the new year will be like.
There are those who insist that this method does not have any scientific rigor. But this does not prevent many people from taking advantage of the last day of the year or January 1 to look at what the weather will be like in the next 12 months and even make plans based on it.
The method is as follows: the first twelve days of January represent one month in ascending order (January 1 represents January, January 2 is February, January 3 is March, and so on). And from January 13 to 24 the same but in reverse (January 13 is December, January 14 is November, etc.).
After January 25 to 30, each day represents two months in ascending order depending on the time (From midnight on January 25 to noon represents January, and from noon to midnight on January 25 represents February).
And finally on the 31st, each two-hour stretch represents a month in a descending way (from midnight to 02:00 am is December, from 02:00 am to 04:00 am is November, etc.).
In Peru and Bolivia you cannot miss the ekeko, a figurine of a few centimeters that represents a man dressed in the typical manner of the Andean highlands.
Although the cult of this character is not limited to the New Year, people take it as an ideal opportunity to have this Aymara deity present.
The ekeko is said to be loaded with a large number of bundles filled with food and necessities. And if you take good care of it, it will bring abundance and joy.
But beware, because if neglected or abandoned, the ekeko can turn things around and bring misfortune.
The care of this amulet at the end of the year also coincides with the fact that in January the Alasita Fair is celebrated, a traditional festival of which the ekeko is a central figure.
In some Central American countries it is customary to crack an egg and put it in a glass of water. There are those who leave it overnight on December 31st outside by the window, or even put it under the bed.
It is said that the shape the egg takes will be what the new year holds.
What the pandemic left us
It is known that the clothes you wear are an important element to take into account when the chimes ring at 12 at night.
In countries like Venezuela it is known as “bringing the premiere” or “putting on the premiere” to the latest garments purchased. The idea is that the New Year can’t catch you wearing old clothes.
Color is also important. Yellow for the money (many insist it has to be underwear), red for those who are looking for a partner and white for good energy.
But modern times require modern solutions and there are those who already adapt the old ways with the new ones wearing masks of these colors.