“I don’t forget the old year because it gave me many good things” (song by Crescencio Salcedo)
There isn’t a New Year’s Eve party that doesn’t include in its music repertoire “El Año Viejo” (The Old Year), song by Colombian composer Crescencio Salcedo that has become popular as sung by Jalisco singer Tony Camargo (who, by the way, has been living in Mérida during recent years). With its Caribbean rhythm, this song is played at family reunions or during special dinners, enjoying saying goodbye to the year that is ending and welcoming the New Year. On this date, various businesses offer special packages (see web article) that include dinner and of course live music, amenities and lots of fun, an excellent option for celebrating with family and friends.
Another tradition that continues is the burning of the “old year.” The figure is normally a life-size image of an old man with used clothing, stuffed with cotton and firecrackers. It is placed outside of houses for several days before December 31st, to be burned at midnight as a symbol of leaving behind the past and everything that happened in the previous year. The families and neighbors usually get together to see him “go off” on the old night. Of course: always with care and safety.
Some prefer having a piñata in the form of the old man, or maybe representing a political figure or famous character. For one of these, the price is around $800 pesos, plus the firecrackers that are used as the stuffing; it’s also burned at midnight on December 31st.
The origin of this tradition is not known, but it is widely accepted and has a lot of symbolism, because the fire is a transition ritual burns and purifies and regenerates energy.
For those who don’t like firecrackers, the piñata can be without them and filled with candies to share instead. In recent years we have also seen paper balloons rising to the sky during the night as a symbol of good luck and petitions for the year that is about to start.
Another option is to follow the Catholic tradition, and go to mass on this day (or January 1st) to receive a blessing. As you can see, Yucatán is full of celebrations and of lots of ways to end the year.
By Violeta H. Cantarell
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