Holidays New Year's Top

Burning up the Old Year in Bogotá

Ana Fadul/YJI

Bogotá, COLOMBIA – As the new year begins with brightly colored fireworks and the joyful sounds of celebration filling the air, in Colombia, this also means that a memorable tradition must be fulfilled: It’s time to burn a scarecrow or doll.

An especially strange looking Old Year, wearing a Chuckie mask and carrying alcohol and a gun, stands ready to be burned. (Ana Fadul/YJI)

After midnight, someone lights a life-sized scarecrow or a small doll on fire in effigy of the Old Year, as we call it.

In some villages around the country, people might put fireworks inside the doll, even though this is not recommended for the safety of the people around it. 

Apart from the flashy aspect of this display, it’s supposed to represent more than that.

Burning the “Old Year” shows how we have the opportunity to start this period anew, to leave behind the aspects of our lives that we aren’t satisfied with and change them into something that we can be proud of. 

Attached to the scarecrow or doll, there are always papers where people write down the bad things that happened in the previous year, and as the fire burns through the entire contraption, they can let go of those negative aspects of their lives.

This tradition is not only about having fun, but also about showing that we always have a second, third, or fourth chance of starting again when things aren’t going exactly our way.

New Year’s here has always been about starting anew. Most traditions are centered around this fact, a new beginning and, because of it, a better life.

A doll burns in effigy of 2023. (Ana Fadul/YJI)

In Colombia, there are other activities that are believed to improve your life in the new year.

You wear yellow underwear for good luck, have lentils in your pockets for more money, and run around the block 12 times with a suitcase so you can travel more.

The more dedicated people eat 12 grapes, one for each chime of the bells, and for the ones who want a partner, they have to do this while being under a table. (It’s definitely more difficult than it sounds.)

Even though this list of activities sounds illogical and absurd to people inside and outside the country, it isn’t about the veracity of the traditions, but about the act of hoping that the positive things you are envisioning for the new year will become reality.

Ana Fadul is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

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