Las Cuevitas: Building New Year Dreams

New Year wishes and dreams come in many forms.  In the U.S.A. we open a bottle of bubbly, raise a toast  and dance the night away.  For some, the ritual for watching the New Year arrive involves peering into the television to party-on with Times Square revelers.  Some of us may get really serious and make a list of resolutions that require dedicated devotion to change.  This can be a time of celebration, of renewal and of making and attempting to keep commitments.  A noble endeavor.

Teoti Las Cuevitas Family Sparkler

I remember growing up in Los Angeles and crawling out of bed to join my little sister and brother in front of the television to watch the Pasadena Rose Parade.  We dreamt of being there, of getting a great curbside view of the pageantry, the floats, the horsemanship of bygone T.V. cowboys who we adored.   We lived twenty miles away but the early morning January 1 ritual of snuggling in front of the television was our way of welcoming in the new year as children. Eventually, both my brother and sister marched in that parade when their high school bands won the competition to participate.  I was their cheerleader.


Each year as the clock counts down and the calendar page turns, we can take part in the process to pause, assess, and reevaluate what is important in our lives.  It can be a turning point, a marker, an opportunity and a blessing.  New Years celebrations are universal and timed to different cycles.   Chinese New Year  marks the end of winter when celebrants decorate with red paper cut-outs, forget grudges and wish each other peace and happiness.   Ramadan is the most sacred for observers of Islam, when the focus is on spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship.   For Jews, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, offers an opportunity to amend behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done.  Many traditions mark an annual observance to acknowledge the mysteries of life, to rebuild, rededicate and look to a better future.

P1030349  Flower Poinsettias

In Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, each year on January 1 and January 2, villagers begin the annual cultural and religious festivities known as Las Cuevitas.  After a family meal, they process together  en mass as a community to the caves in the foothills beyond the pueblo.  Clustered in extended family groupings, they approach the grotto where the virgin appeared, make an offering and a new year wish, then move inside the serene on-site chapel to give and receive blessings.  In years past we have participated, joining our adopted Teotitlan del Valle family to find a suitable rocky outcropping to gather rocks and build our dreams.

Sparklers at Las Cuevitas Building the Casita

Dreams take the physical form of houses, barns, cars, a new plow.  But the dream is also spiritual and along with firecrackers and food, the altar is the hillside where the collective assembles to give prayer in hope for a better world for families, loved ones, and extended community.


Today in North Carolina we will move through our farm, gather rocks, sticks and branches, and leaves.  We will build another house in symbolic solidarity with our Mexican friends and land that we love.

Happiest new year to you all.  May your dreams be filled with abundance, peace and well-being, good health and contentment.  May your family and friends be surrounded by warmth, generosity and hope.  Welcome 2013.   Feliz y prospero año nuevo.

Papel Picado at Las Cuevitas


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