Monday, January 09, 2006

Peruvians and the yellow superstition permanent link   0 comments
Feliz Año Nuevo! Viva Perú!
Witnessing new year celebrations and traditions in a foreign country for the first time is always exciting and special. Here in Peru it was extra colorful. Yellow, mostly.
click to enlargeAccording to color psychologists, it is the color of the sun, associated with laughter, happiness and good times. Yellow is associated with optimism and promise of better times. Peruvians know that all too well and they hope to "push" luck a little bit by performing some rituals including flourishing baths so that they can get a job, money and love next year.

Yellow is the dominating color in most clothing stores and shopping malls that offer a series of products for this special day. One of the most popular new year's eve traditions in "Inca-land" is to turn into a "canary" since most of them buy yellow clothes, above all underwear, a good omen sign for Peruvians.

The flourishing baths ("baño de florecimiento") are very important to start the new year with the right foot and full of positive energy, as well as water with fresh herbs and flowers should be showered on the person just before the new year comes.
For those wishing to have their dreams come true, he or she must eat 12 grapes at midnight, place a bowl full of lentils on the table or carry a suitcase around his or her block if they want to travel a lot this next year.
Another new year's eve tradition in Peru is burning dolls to ashes to bid the year farewell or leave bad luck behind and this time, the renowned "piñatas" had the face of president Alejandro Toledo who is undergoing a popularity crisis. Besides, his presidency will come to an end anyway, the elections are in April.

In every shopping mall one could find dolls with the face of president Toledo and his wife, Eliane Karp, whose temper has confronted her to the press and the political opinion.

click to enlargeThen there are the street- and park markets with dozens of guessed it, yellow booths, covered by a cloud of charcoal smoke, selling all kinds of items and rituals to the superstitious customer. Tiny little handcrafted model houses, tons of monopoly money, golden frog statues, colored rocks and candles, coca leaves, eggs, stuffed armadillos, bottles with curative serums, and a smoking charcoal stove which serves as the "magic dust". This is how it works: for example, if you feel claustrophobic in your 1-bedroom apartment and wish for owning a new house, you have to buy a stylish miniature version of a house (I strongly recommend one with a nice swimming pool!), cover it with smoke for a while, then shower it with yellow confetti and your dream will come true. Simple as that.
If you want to know what the future holds for you, have a chunk of lead melted in a hot stove and the bizarre looking creation will tell the whole story. Another favorite are the coca leaves. They take a bunch of them, throw them on a table and this always unique picture serves as the source for your future telling.
click to enlarge
Then there is the secret area behind a yellow curtain, to give customers some privacy while several rituals are administered. First you have to hold an egg against your chest while waiting for your turn. It starts with a prayer and an aromatic incense cloud. The ritualist then touches all parts of your body with the egg you were holding, which supposedly will take away all your fears and worries, then breaks it in a glass of water and that mixture gives the fortune teller your whole story about your health problems, trouble in your relationship(s), the whole shebang.
To clean you from all the demons and sorrows and to absorb bad thoughts and feelings, the stuffed armadillo (or "quirquincho") is placed on your head before it touches your whole body. And to finish things off, you are showered by yellow "ruda" flowers and you are being told not to wash it off with water for at least one day.
All done! Now you are ready to leave the troubles of the past behind, the slate is clean, and the new year can begin with freshness, happiness and the hope that it all pans out by making me the owner of a new house by December 31st.


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