Panama’s New Years rituals and customs are both unique & interesting.
Have you done any of these?
1. Eat 12 grapes at midnight
As you eat each one, make a wish. 12 wishes for the New Year.
They also say that the grapes will predict how your year will be. For instance, if your 2nd grape is sour, then February will be a bad month. But if you get a sweet grape, that month will be a sweet experience.
2. Spit out the grape seeds.
Then count the number of seeds.
You use the number of discarded seeds to determine your lucky lottery numbers.
The lottery is very popular in Panama.
3. Have money in your hand at midnight
Don’t forget to clasp some money in your hand while you are eating your grapes!
Having money in your hands at midnight will help ensure you will have money throughout the coming year.
4. Walk with a packed suitcase around the house
This will ensure a new year full of travel.
5. Wear yellow underwear
It gives you good luck throughout the new year.
6. Wear red
It will attract love in the new year
7. Put rice in a pot
It will attract wealth for the New Year.
8. Pour water on a pound rice
Sometimes people also pour water on a pound of rice. I am not sure what this signifies. Perhaps another cleansing ritual.
9. Burn incense on December 31
This will get rid of bad energy from the old year
10. Hang a bunch of oranges, rice and wheat behind the front door
The benefits of doing this are 3-fold: prosperity, work and health.
11. Burn a “stuffed man” at midnight
One of Panama’s unique New Year traditions is that of the Muñecos.
These life sized effigies are an old Panamanian tradition. These “stuffed people” are called many names:
- Old Year Dolls
- Judas Dolls
They are stuffed with firecrackers. Then are lit and beaten at the stroke of midnight.
According to folklore, by beating and setting the effigies aflame, the sins and evil spirits of the old year are destroyed. Making way for good fortune in the new year.
The fire crackers are said to help drive the evil forces away, since ghosts are afraid of light and noise.
The Muñecos are usually made to look like well-known politicians or movie stars from the outgoing year. For instance, Fidel Castro, Irving Saladin (Panama’s first Olympic gold medalist, 2011), Celia Cruz, Betty la Fea, etc.
Sometimes people attached strings to the Muñecos so that they can sit on their porch and have the doll “wave” its hand to passer-bys.
Muñecos are especially common along the Pan-American Highway.
12. Swim in the Ocean on January 1
This ocean swim will “clean out” the bad things of the previous year and bring in good things of the New Year.
This year we are going to try to do as many of these rituals as we can.
Although I hope doing them at midnight is not required. We are usually asleep well before then.
Please share your Panama New Year experiences in the comments below.
Did we miss a ritual?