Friday, November 25, 2005

How to Use Three Potatoes and a Stuffed Dummy for Bringing in the New Year

Three potatoes and a stuffed dummy?

Want to know hot to use three potatoes and a stuffed dummy for bringing in the New Year? Well here’s the scoop.

During the latter part of December in Colombia and Ecuador, an effigy of the old year is stuffed with sawdust, wood chips, shredded paper and other flammables. The body is seeded with a few well-placed firecrackers as well. The head is often a papier-mâché mask not infrequently resembling a famous person, character or politician. Someone you’d just as soon be rid of is a runaway favorite, although witches, politicians, presidents, generals and mother-in-laws have the followings.

The life-sized effigy is placed in a prominent place like a doorway, window or even on a chair out in front of the house to await its fate. The practice even extends to stores, shops and businesses with many having effigies made up and placed outside in front – away from the merchandise of course. On the evening of December 31st, often sooner, the effigy is set ablaze amid much fanfare, shouting and wishes for the New Year. It burns rapidly taking the old year and its troubles with it. As the crackling flames, fueled by gasoline poured on the effigy, reach the firecrackers, the dummy is blown into flaming bits. There are so many burning on some streets in Quito and other towns in Ecuador it looks like a war zone. The stage is now set for a fresh, New Year.

Now Take Three Potatoes

This one’s easy, but odd. You take three potatoes; some people use five, peel one and then toss them all under the bed. Don’t look now – no peeking! Reach under the bed and feel around for them. Got ‘em? Okay pick one, still no peeking now! Take it out. If it’s the peeled one, then goodness and bounty will be yours for the New Year. If it’s not, well, better luck next year. Don’t laugh, my Mother-in-law does this! (but for goodness sakes, don’t tell her I told you!)

Happy New Year! … and get that suitcase out!

Want to know what suitcase? Be sure to read “Happy New Year Latin Style: Unusual South American Customs for bringing in the New Year”.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He now lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on language learning, public speaking, writing and mental skills development? E-mail Prof. Larry M. Lynch at: for professional consulting, EFL Teacher Training or ELT multi-media presentations at your conference or facility.

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