In La Paz, Bolivia, the new year is welcomed with the month-long festival of Alasitas. The festival has its roots in the custom of the indigenous people, the Aymara, who prayed for good crops in the coming year and gave each other gifts. In pre-conquest times, these gifts were often miniatures representing what people would like to receive or achieve in the new year.
Leslie Jamison writes about this tradition in The Empathy Exams: “For three weeks, the markets around the Parque Urbano are full of tiny objects, tiny everything: tiny horses, tiny computers, tiny diplomas, tiny houses, tiny Jeeps, tiny llamas and tiny llama steaks, tiny passports.”
Jamison continues, “People buy models of whatever they need most: a new house, a new farm animal, enough food to last the year. They offer their miniature figurines to a miniature man—Ekeko, the midget, also the Aymara god of abundance, a smoking doll cloaked in bright wool. They pin their miniature desires to his miniature poncho.”
Originally held in October, Alasitas was moved to January 24 to coincide with the celebration of Our Lady of Peace, for whom La Paz is named.
Consider making a representation of what you most want in the new year. I’m gathering with friends this year to make my new-year collage, which is my version, but it would also be fun to create or purchase a three-dimensional symbol of your dreams for the coming year.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”
Charming Greeting Cards for Spring 2016