Muñeco de Año Nuevo – Good Riddance to 2017

I don’t know about the rest of you, but around here 2017 was pretty much a dumpster fire.

Oh, don’t get me wrong… there were some good moments. I’m finally in my senior year. My fibro pain is mostly under control. I was able to travel a bit – went to Denver twice and Miami & Key West once. My pilot Antonio and I are better than ever. The Munchkin is doing better than ever. The year in politics has made an activist out of me.

But also… egad. We lost my grandfather in August. My sister’s 14yo Pug (who was basically like my niece with fur) died right before Christmas. I spent the first half of the year in a custody battle with my ex-husband and the second half just trying to not hate him and his nasty emails. And don’t even get me started on what’s happening in this country with regard to politics, equality, and social justice…

So when Antonio suggested that we make a muñeco de Año Nuevo, it seemed like a pretty good idea.

Antonio, for those of you new to our story, is from Peru. And Peru is serious about their New Year’s traditions. REALLY serious. Much more so than here in the States. They have so many customs and traditions for the New Year that are meant to cast out last year’s bad and bring good luck for the new year, it’s mind-boggling to this Indiana girl. Some of them make sense – like going into the new year with money in your pockets, or wearing new clothes. Others, like lucky yellow underwear or hiding potatoes under the furniture, seem completely odd. But the one really big one – and I mean BIG – is the muñeco.

In English, we would call it an effigy. In Peru and other Latin American countries, the muñeco is a life-sized doll built to represent the outgoing year. You stuff old clothes with leaves, newspaper, etc. On scraps of paper, you write down the bad or negative things that happened that you don’t want to take into the new year with you, and stuff them inside the muñeco. Then on New Year’s Eve, the whole neighborhood goes out in the street and lights this life-sized doll on fire.

Out with the old and in with the new, right? Sounded good to me.

Since it was just the two of us this year, and because I live in the Midwest and not in a very culturally diverse subdivision, we decided to make just a small muñeco. We hit up the local Goodwill store for some tiny clothes, then stuffed and stapled and gave it a head. 

Disclaimer: In Latin America, it is very common for these muñecos to carry the face of a national figure, such as a Peruvian politician, so I’ve doctored these images a little. 

Around 11:30 tonight, in the FREEZING cold, we headed out to the back patio and set our little muñeco on fire. It didn’t take very long, but it felt pretty good to watch all the negative from this past year burn. Loss and illness and challenges… we’re not taking any of that into this new year with us.

As I look forward to graduation and Antonio’s career keeps growing, as we continue praying for those in this country that have less than we do, as we stand up for our neighbors who are discriminated against, let this new year bring peace and prosperity and good health.

Friends… Feliz Año Nuevo. Bonne Année. Happy New Year. Blessings and peace to you and yours in 2018 and beyond.

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On Behalf of a Grateful Nation…

Ed. Note: This piece was written both as catharsis on the loss of my grandfather, and as ethnographic research paper for Dr. Marvin Sterling‘s ANTH-E393 World Fiction and Cultural Anthropology class at Indiana University. It is both biographical and fictional. 

The sky is a brilliant blue. There’s a warm breeze drifting up over the hill from the river below. The beauty of this late summer day betrays the solemnity of such an occasion. I’ve always thought so. Some might complain about duty in the cold or rain or snow; to me, it always felt like the weather should match the mood. It’s as if the warmth of the sun is a slap in the face to a family in mourning.  Continue reading