Feliz Año Nuevo (Happy New Year!)

New Year’s Eve in Panama is quite the event, and last night did not disappoint. We stayed home in our own neighborhood and had a very good time. Of course there were fireworks involved, and parties, and music, and people in the streets enjoying it all.

We saw four muñecos in the neighborhood. This is a very interesting tradition. An effigy is made of a person, animal, or whatever the person wants to use to represent the year that is leaving, all the bad things that need to leave with it, and the good wishes for the new year. Then, at midnight, the muñeco is set on fire. Since it is usually stuffed with fireworks this can be quite a spectacle!

We saw the first one up the road in a neighbor’s front yard. I believe it represents one of the candidates for president in the upcoming election. Last night it was put on the back of a truck, and the truck was slowly driven all around the neighborhood with the horn honking, and the people in the back waving and shouting greetings.


The second looked like a lady with yarn hair, painted face, and fancy shoes sitting in a yard chair, legs crossed, drink in her hand, and plastic bag in her lap. We were invited to write our wishes for the coming year in a piece of paper, and put the paper in her bag. Today when we rode by there was nothing left of the lady but a black pile of ashes in the street.

The third was in another front yard, a man made out of old clothes. We stopped by but ended up talking with the people in the house next door – the man was at the end of his sidewalk with suitcases at his feet, and it turns out he was leaving for New York so we had a bit to talk about. We also met his sons and wife, and have plans to get together in a couple weeks to hear about his trip.

The fourth was on our corner where the Colombian people live, and where probably 40 of them had gathered to celebrate the holiday. We got back to our house just as they were lighting their muñenco, and it was a very impressive amount of noise and fire as it exploded and flamed in all directions! Our stop sign will never bee the same.


I didn’t take my camera because I wanted to relax and enjoy the evening more than I wanted to document it. There sure were some gorgeous fireworks though. I think all together they would been as good as most July 4th displays I’ve seen in the US!  And, as always, there were greetings and hugs and kisses from everyone we passed in the street wishing us Feliz Año Nuevo, or more commonly just Feliz Año. If thing keep going in the direction they have been going, it will be another very happy year indeed.

My friend Cindy also wrote a blog post about seeing other muñecos.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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2 Responses to Feliz Año Nuevo (Happy New Year!)

  1. emails are loading, but the wordpress pages are not.. it’s slow internet on my end… thanks for the pingbacks;  i look forward to reading- hopefully soon – about how your new years evening went! z



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