My family is here for the New Year. This past week we celebrated with a mezcal tour led by Alvin Starkman, a pottery tour to Santa Maria Atzompa with Innovando y Tradicion and a family trip to Hierve el Agua and San Juan del Rio.
We ended 2015 with a grand New Year’s Eve fiesta and finished off with a January 1 ritual pilgrimage to Las Cuevitas to welcome the New Year with wishes. Here, everyone is encouraged to have dreams.
This year the sunset at Las Cuevitas was less than dramatic but the festivities carried on in grand style befitting Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Like, close to the entire village was here. The band plays on and fireworks continue throughout the day and night.
We could call it a family picnic on the hillside but it’s much more than that. This celebration to welcome in the New Year is ancient. These grottos where three altars stand hold magical and healing properties. Make a wish at the altar. Then toss a coin into the small brook. If the coin lands on the plate and not in the water your wish will come true.
Mostly, people wish for good health. They might dream of a new house or a baby or a yard filled with farm animals, a good corn crop, the absence of drought. Abundance is a dream we all wish for, worldwide. We sent a prayer to our mom who just died. Lit a candle. Made our tribute.
Here young men play with fire. They soak a special log in kerosene and take turns throwing it off to the next one in the circle. A pre-Hispanic ritual, someone explains to me.
Families gather around campfires. Some have pitched tents and spend the night there New Year’s Eve. There are cooking stoves and the smell of grilled meat fills the air.
Each year on January 1, I always like to arrive by 4 p.m. to get there in time for sunset. This gives me a chance to gather rocks and join the locals to build a miniature structure that will symbolize plenty in the year to come.
Small plastic barnyard animals are for sale at the entrance to the caves. You can add these to the front yard of your house or build a roof with leafy branches gathered from the countryside.
As sun sets, the sparklers twinkle and we get into the rhythm of the evening. It is festive and makes us pause to reflect on the past year and the one to come.
This year I had my son, sister, brother-in-law and goddaughter with me, along with friends, so being at Las Cuevitas was a special time. We made wishes, gave thanks, remembered parents and grandparents, and looked out onto the Tlacolula Valley from the mountain top.
More than a few of us played with fire. As sunset became night, the hillside filled with a display of light that could be seen from the Pan-American highway.
Wishing you all a 2016 filled with love, all that you wish for including blessings, peace, health, contentment and satisfaction. Thank you for being with me on this remarkable journey.
Un abrazo, Norma.
P.S. If you want to come and spend the night, make your reservations early! There is a limited supply of rooms in Teotitlan del Valle and I know some people were disappointed they couldn’t be here.
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