Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, a particular ceremony takes place in La Plata, my hometown. This tradition started over half a century ago. It’s called “La quema de los Muñecos”, “the burning of the dolls”. These so-called dolls are huge figures and structures, made of “papier machiée”, wood, cardboard and other inflammable materials, which the neighbors of different areas patiently build all along December. The figures are filled with fireworks. They are very sophisticated, real works of art. Actually, the City Hall organizes a contest and awards prizes to the winners. It takes a lot of hard work to build them, and – ironically- they go up in flames in a few seconds.

As we watch them burn, I guess we all feel we are setting fire to the sad things we’ve gone through all along the dying year, all the disappointments, the misfortunes, the drawbacks. It’s like starting all over, from scratch, leaving behind the bad experiences and getting ready for the brighter promises the new born year brings with it. Moreover, this ceremony is a metaphor of how fleeting life is.

Once again, good old Shakespeare comes to mind: ” Out, out, brief candle. Life’s but a walking shadow…”.

Published on Buenos Aires Times