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Ao_viejo_pic_02Around the globe, countries have special or unusual New Year's customs. Some customs are shared; others vary from country to country. Some are amusing, such as the custom of throwing water on people; many are intended to bring good luck during the New Year ahead. Other such customs involve of eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes twelve midnight. Here in Belize especially in the northern part of the country the tradition also varies from eating of grapes to burning the old year man doll or ‘Juan Viejo’ which is a much anticipated event. Reporter Victor Castillo got in depth view of the tradition and filed the following report.

Victor Castillo – Reporting

Burning "Mr. Old Year" or Juan Viejo is a New Year's tradition for many within the four corners of Belize. As families reunite to welcome the New Year, part of the entertainment and highlight for many would be the burning of the male figurine. It requires the participation of the entire family. It is a lot of fun; they fabricate a big stuffed male doll that is symbolic of the old year. Then they stuff the doll with different materials. Sometimes they put some little fire crackers in it to make it more exciting at the time they burn it. And the main purpose of it is to also put things inside that they don't want anymore, objects that can bring sadness or bad memories of the year past.

Here in Corozal Town the Vela and Tun family have taken the tradition seriously, as each year they set up time to fabricate Mr. Old year.

Roberto Tun – Resident of Corozal.

“Son tradiciones desde muy niño me mis papas me inculcaron esa tradición de que se hace un muñeco como representando el ano viejo que viene saliendo entonces se quema o sea yo acostumbro hacerlo cada ano por una tradición que te dije de familia que desde hace aproximadamente quince años que se viene haciendo de mi familia y ahora se pasó a tradiciones con mi suegra y se empezó hacer más grande la tradición y por eso es que cada ano lo hacemos.”

Victor Castillo – Reporter

“Que significa para su familia y para usted?”

Roberto Tun – Resident of Corozal.

“Bueno en primer lugar es como un decir un a dios al ano viejo entonces lo hacemos porque damos por terminado un ano y como representación como lo que fue el ano en que allí se queman los malos y los buenos recuerdos y todo se queda en el ano viejo, entonces es como un recordatorio ese día para todas las personas para toda la familia que se llevó todo en que quedo todo y se desaparece completamente el ano porque todo lo que se vivió y todo los que ha pasado ya no regresa queda en cenizas.”

Tun also explained that preparing the figurine would take up to three days for it to be prepared.

Roberto Tun – Resident of Corozal.

“Buen yo departe hago el muñeco representando a un viejito, que es el ano viejo, la característica lo puedes hacer de cualquier persona; una persona joven, una mujer, nosotros agarramos un viejito un anciano y pues lo rellenamos con hojas de plátano para que agarre mejor y adentro del muñeco le vamos poniendo lo que se le dice aquí palomitas en todo su cuerpo y lo vamos dándole forma a la camiseta y al pantalón todo como un ser humano en forma de un viejito para que represente un ano viejo. Teniendo todo el material libre pues me agarra aproximadamente dos a tres días para ponerlo bien. Pues a las once y media se empieza a encender pues para que al paso de los minutos y que llegue a media noche ya esté completamente ya quemado.”

We understand that Mr. Old Year or Juan Viejo is showcased to the public at midday on the 31st of December with a cigar and a bottle of rum, awaiting the stroke of midnight for its tradition burning.

According to the Vela and Tun family, each year a family member is responsible to provide with the attire that Mr. Old Year would wear.

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