As the clocks strike midnight on December 31st, towns and villages all over Peru come alive with impromptu fireworks displays and lively celebrations. But it’s not all about partying – locals also have a number of quirky traditions for bringing in the New Year.
Purchasing new clothes, especially underwear, for the big day is a popular way to ‘start anew’, but it’s the color that’s most significant – red clothes are said to bring love in the coming year, green symbolizes money and yellow, the most popular choice, brings luck and happiness. That’s not all: running up and down flights of stairs or around the block; scattering rice around the house; taking a bath filled with flowers and throwing 12 coins over your shoulder (one for each month of the upcoming year) are all said to ensure a favorable year to come. There’s even a saying that if you want to travel in the New Year, you should carry a suitcase around the block at the strike of midnight.
Another fascinating New Year’s ritual is making and burning an effigy – known as muñecos in Peru – dressed in old clothes. Said to symbolize washing away past sins, it’s a hugely popular tradition and in some areas, hundreds of fires are dotted along the beaches or streets, as locals burn away their regrets from the past year.
Cusco, launch pad for the famous Inca Trail, is a hugely popular place to spend the New Year, with an explosive array of fireworks and a congregation of locals running around the central square, Plaza de Armas, at midnight. Days before New Year’s Eve, the streets are lined with market stalls selling good luck tokens for the big day – flowers, colored candles, grapes, cakes and fireworks are all on sale, along with an abundance of yellow items. On the night itself, a countdown to midnight is shouted out in the square, with yellow confetti raining from the skies. Later, locals tuck into a special New Year’s meal – typically turkey or local specialty cuy (guinea pig), followed by hot chocolate and paneton (fruit cake) – before the younger generation parties the night away at the surrounding bars and nightclubs.