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Panamanian traditions to welcome the New Year
By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
There are many rituals that are observed in Panama to welcome the New Year, which involve burning incense to ward off evil spirits, taking aromatic baths made with essential oils to get rid of bad vibes and hanging from the main door oranges and rice branches to bring prosperity to the household and going to the beach on January 1 to assure good luck for the next twelve months.
For foreigners these customs are weird and wonderful, but it is part of the cultural heritage of the country, which combines the Spanish, native Indians and African traditions. It is an interesting mixture of religion, witchcraft and superstitions passed from generation to generation and who doesn’t want to have good luck.
For example the burning of a Judas (an effigy of well-known personality) full of fireworks, brings families together, because the time spent together creating these dolls that are burned at midnight. The pyromaniac in you will feel very satisfied seeing the mannequin blown to pieces.
The idea is to burn the bad things that happened during the year before and at the same take a little revenge on bad politicians, movie or television personalities or whoever annoys the locals one way or another. During election year, you can see effigies of candidates to the official posts and give you a clue of who might win the Presidency of the Republic. The dolls can be seen on the way to Coronado next to the Panamerican Highway, especially in Chame until December 31.
Another ritual probably borrowed from the Chinese is to eat fish at New Year and wear red (for love) or yellow (luck) underwear on New Years Eve. Many people will swear that their destinies have been changed, because of these little traditions, so why don´t you try it yourself, just for fun.