Burned Clothes, Gold, and Fireworks: Cuzco’s New Year
By Walter Coraza Morveli and Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara (Translation by David Knowlton)
Three, two, one, Prrrr…. “Happy New Year” erupts in popping fireworks and bursting rockets as everyone gives all near a hug and a wish for happiness and all things good, while scattering a handful of yellow confetti on their head. At midnight, the navel of the world explodes in joy, like cities the world over as one year in the calendar turns to another.
Though not an Inca festivity, the New Year is one the city has made its own. Cuzco’s traditions are well known and people expend great effort in getting ready for them, form the food one should eat and what one should drink at midnight, to choosing precisely what to do that night. It is not just that the people of Cuzco try to celebrate in the best way, they also think what happens that night is a sign of what will happen in the new year, and most everyone hopes for prosperity.
Before midnight people decorate their homes with bright yellow ornaments. And they have ready yellow confetti –called mixtura, lots of grapes, and in many homes they light candles or aromatic incense, all to bring good fortune and drive away all bad energy. If they are able, they prepare a lechón, a pork roast, because pork is a sign of the prosperity for which they hope. Nevertheless other families eat chicken or turkey, depending on the preference and the budget of every family.
Many Cusqueñans celebrate the New Year by wearing new underwear, preferably yellow. After all, yellow, the color of gold and the sun, is what characterizes this festivity. By morning the streets will be filled with yellow flowers, yellow balloons, and yellow ribbon. Yellow confetti will be scattered everywhere. Among other ways of creating good fortune for the New Year, people will carry dried grains and will eat grapes under a table. The customs vary a bit from family to family, but everyone worries about doing the right things to get a good New Year.
But more than the champagne, the pork roast, the lights, or the feasts, many people anxiously await this date to take a look at their lives and reflect on what will help them be better in the coming year.
That night the city of Cuzco will fill with smoke. For many, part of augering a good year for themselves is to get rid of their old clothes and other old things by burning them. People will make dolls of old clothes in order to light them on fire at midnight. In this way they can begin the New Year by starting fresh.
The Plaza de Armas, the Main Square, fills with people. Thousands gather there to watch the fireworks, the music, and the light show at midnight. Well before time, the restaurants, discotheques and bars that are around or near the Plaza reserve space for a fee. Balconies on the Plaza come at a premium because they have the best view of the midnight show. This year the municipality is organizing a spectacle with a light show, live music, concerts, fireworks, and of course, much applause.
Besides celebrating in the Plaza or at home with family, the City of Cuzco offers a great variety of places where we can receive the New Year. There are discotheques, bars, karaokes, an hoteles that provide special services for those who wish to party there to receive the New Year. At the moment the are selling tickets for their offerings, although in the ones with the greatest demand, they are already sold out.
‘The discos are a fun place for one to receive the New Year dancing and having fun with friends and strangers. Among the most well known are Mama Africa, Garabato, as well as Inca Team, Atika, and others. These latter are the places to visit if one wants maximum adrenaline. ‘
For young people who might be bored with the city, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is the indicated place to party all out. Every year a large number of young people go to Urubamba for its mild climate and maximum fun.
In Urubamba, one of the main radio stations in Peru, Studio 92, is organizing to receive the New Year with “the best party of the year”, the Open Party 2012. It will be a grand party. Tickets are selling quickly because of the great demand among the youth who are reserving them and getting ready to go to the Valley and Urubamba for fun.
With just a little time left before the New Year we can appreciate all the economic movement of New Year’s Eve. According to Cusco’s custom it is a good augury, a good omen for the New Year, if one buys new clothes for the whole family. As a result a lot of clothes are being sold today throughout the city.
People wil also be eating twelve grapes at midnight and make a wish for each grape. They hope then to get what they wish for. People worry greatly about what they do this special night since it will have implications for the entire year. You have to watch carefully what happens and what you do for signs of what your year will be like.
It is said that if you begin the New Year by traveling you will be able to travel throughout the year. For example in one family of tour guides, once the New Year arrives, they quickly put on their backpacks and begin to run out of the house. This is good, they say, since it means they will have lots of work as a result through the year, and will be able to take lots of tour groups on trips.
New Years is a very important feast in Cusco. It involves cleaning out the city with burning old things, putting on new clothes, and making actions that can lead to an exciting and prosperous year. At midnight all will shout with joy.
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