Our Favorite Panamanian Holiday Tradition

Panamanians like to party. It seems like every month there is a holiday or some reason for a celebration. Rather than a single day to celebrate their country's independence(s), they spend most of the month of November celebrating the sovereignty of their beloved patria, or homeland, during the Dias patrios. Those from the isthmus would even argue that the Panamanian Carnaval is superior to its Brazilian counterpart.

True to form, Panamanians have many noteworthy celebrations and traditions for Christmas and the New Year. As the holiday season arrives, we at Few for Change figured we would share one of our favorite festive traditions in our latest post from the culture blog.

New Year's Eve in Panama is a night for celebrating the year past and preparing for the year to come. Panamanians have many superstitions designed to bring good fortune in the new year. Wearing yellow underwear brings good luck. Wearing something red brings love and romance. Holding money when the clock strikes midnight yields wealth (Panamanian Christmas and New Year Traditions). All of these speak to the hope and anticipation that the New Year's holiday brings, but it is also a time for reflecting on the past year.

One of our favorite of these traditions is the creation, and subsequent destruction, of the muñeco, a doll or effigy that represents bad memories from the past (or perhaps an unpopular politician). The muñecos are made with old clothes and stuffed with leaves, making them look somewhat similar to a scarecrow. At midnight the muñeco is burned and those looking for a little extra pyrotechnic display stuff them with firecrackers. As the muñeco burns, it takes with it the misfortune and hardship of the past year and allows its creators to start the new year with a clean slate.

And so, as the year comes to a close, we at Few for Change wish you a happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous new year. ¡Feliz año nuevo!