Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The old man after the party

Remains of El Viejo, Jan 1, 2012, Merida
Scenes like the one above would have been very disturbing to visitors to Mérida this week if they weren't aware of the tradition of burning the "Old Man" on New Year's Eve.

It's a good thing I read about it on one of my favourite Merida blogs just a few days before I arrived, very late, on Dec. 31st. The tradition is, people stuff old clothes with paper and fireworks, then set it on fire right at midnight. There's symbolism that I won't pretend to know. I briefly saw a viejo propped up on on our street corner, from the taxi window, minutes before midnight. Once lit, it blazed and banged and shot out dangerous flares and shrapnel for a good long time, with neighbors viewing the spectacle a bit closer than seemed entirely safe.

Cycling around the quiet centre of the city the next morning (searching in vain for coffee and something to eat), there were remains of incompletely incinerated "viejos" all over the place. It was kind of creepy. I wonder if the unburned parts carry any special symbolism for 2012?


  1. Debbie, when I saw the title, I was sure that it was a post about me. Great picture and glad you're enjoying your time here.

  2. It's been years since I felt that bad after a party!

  3. Below is a post explaining the tradition in Mexico
    These things will burn with the old year, meaning that they want to forget all the bad things that happened during the past year. They dress the man with old clothes from each member of the family. Then, on New Year's Eve at midnight, they set the doll on fire. This symbolizes burning the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year without bad memories of the past.