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Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Colombia with Año Viejo!

Año Viejo
Sofía Machado

Sofía Machado

Colture editor but also architect, writer, dreamer, and adventurer. My mission is to tell stories that connect people and to discover, create and enjoy the amazing world we have the pleasure to live in. Instagram: sofiamm55

When New Year’s Eve arrives, it’s time to celebrate and reflect upon what happened during the last twelve months and to embrace and welcome another trip around the sun. In Colombia, we have tons of traditions that have been part of New Year’s Eve celebrations for decades; Año Viejo is one of them!

In Colombia, when it comes to New Year’s Eve, you’ll be amazed! It’s definitely one of the most important dates in the country, and therefore, it’s accompanied by numerous celebrations, rituals, and ceremonies. Año Viejo, which literally means “old year,” basically refers to a puppet that is dressed in old clothes and burned to bring good luck in the New Year. This is a tradition mostly done in small towns and it has been around for decades, representing a symbolic way of letting go and hoping for a better tomorrow. Año Viejo also refers to the day in general. Some people might tell you, “today is Año Viejo,” which means “today is New Year’s Eve.” Keep reading to know more about this iconic tradition!

Año Viejo
© Photograph by Turismoalvuelo.com (left) / Regalos para sonreír (right)

A tradition passed from generation to generation

Imagine writing down hopes for the new year and anything you regret from the old year and then you set it on fire! It would probably feel very liberating! Well, this is what Año Viejo is all about, but instead of burning papers, you burn a puppet that embodies those wishes.

Año Viejo is a tradition brought to Latin America by the Spaniards and it probably derives from ancient European pagan rituals. Each country has its own way of celebrating it. In Colombia, it’s very popular in small towns, where the puppets are made up by members of the community with resources coming from the neighbors. It’s made of old clothes, cardboard or paper, and filled with sawdust, more paper, or even pyrotechnic devices. The puppets can either be a random personification, or, on a funnier note, a personification of political, artistic, or public personalities, as well as good or not-so-good events of the past year. And then, at midnight, puppets are set on fire! Truth is, the tradition varies from region to region, and even from family to family, but the idea is basically the same.

Sadly the practice of Año Viejo has become forgotten during the last years due to bad practices and incidents with pyrotechnic devices, so it’s only natural that in most of Colombia, it’s already prohibited. Nonetheless, the practice has been kept alive in some little towns and you can still buy a miniature puppet (it costs around $40,000 COP/$12.5 USD and you can buy it at Regalos para sonreír), which you can burn as if it were the big one, just in a more controlled way because the fire is contained.

The day of Año Viejo

Año Viejo
© Photograph by Groupon

As I said before, don’t forget that Año Viejo also refers to the day itself. So, in the midst of celebrating the New Year, there are many other traditions that are done on this day. To name a couple, we have the Agüeros, a unique and often quite strange Colombian version of superstitions or omens that are supposed to bring good luck (read my article New Year’s Eve traditions to have fun in Bogotá: Agüeros to know more about it), and the “Cena de Año Nuevo,” or New Year’s Eve Dinner (it can be lunch too), which is a special occasion to gather around delicious traditional Colombian Christmas and New Year’s foods with family and friends (read my articles Colombian recipes for Christmas and New Year’s: Pernil de Cerdo and Colombian recipes for Christmas and New Year’s: Torta Negra to know about some of these recipes).

When midnight is approaching, there might be a fireworks display too (as in many other cities around the world), and hopefully, it’s being done by professionals! Other traditions include the champagne shower (anyone?) or listening to the top five songs of this day:

  • Yo No Olvido El Año Viejo – Tony Camargo
  • Faltan 5 Pa’ Las 12 – Nestor Zavarce
  • Año Nuevo, Vida Nueva – Billo’s Caracas Boys
  • La Víspera de Año Nuevo – Guillermo Buitrago
  • Cantares de Navidad – Billo’s Caracas Boys

Año Viejo is one of the many traditions we have at New Year’s Eve. If you happen to be anywhere in Colombia for this time of the year, I hope you celebrate with your loved ones and have a wonderful Año Viejo! And last but not least, Happy New Year! May it be three hundred and sixty-five days of adventures, dreams, and many more Colture articles!

Was this article useful? Do you know other cool stuff about New Year’s Eve traditions in Bogotá? Or maybe an experience you would like to share? Please share and/or comment on this article, and visit our homepage Colture to take a look at my articles and many others to find more essential information about Bogotá before and during your trip.

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