Being one of the oldest cities in South America, it is obvious that Cusco holds a lot of history. The history normally is what attracts the majority of people to Cusco but every year on the end of December; the city is for many people, foreign and Peruvians, a great place to celebrate the New Year.
Thousands of people coming from all over the world flock into Cusco around these days looking for the best way to celebrate their passing to a new year. Cusco, located on an altitude of 3400 meters above sea level and surrounded by large mountains is indisputably a special place to celebrate this festivity and several typical Peruvian and local rituals all add up to the experience.
One of the older traditions in Peru is the burning of dummies made to resemble people who have done “damage” to Peru in the last year. These dummies can be political figures, TV celebrities or other well-known or famous people that have been in the news the last year. The dummies can be handmade but in recent times people do tend to buy these dummies premade out of cardboard. This year the most famous dummies are those of Omar Chehade, the ex-vice president of Ollanta Humala who was involved in several scandals the last year. Another popular figure for this year will be Rosario Ponce, the girl who got lost in the Colca Canyon earlier this year and who came home alone, leaving the body of her boyfriend to be found in the Colca Canyon under suspicious circumstances a couple of months later.
Another Peruvian tradition is to wear yellow underwear (some even wear them inside out) on New Year’s Eve. Yellow is a color that represents change and rebirth, marking a new beginning. These days one can find all sorts of men and women's yellow underwear on every street corner. This ritual is not yet very well-known among foreigners but once living in Cusco this is a ritual that has to be embraced.
Another ritual is taken over from the Spanish; eating 12 grapes at midnight. This ancient old custom in Spain was brought to Peru by the Conquistadores and still holds till today. The grape also represents the new and eating 12 wil provide you with good luck for the next year.
Apart from these “national” rituals, Cusco also has several of its own, the most famous one taking place on the main square. Cusco’s main square has been the theatre of many important historic moments and therefore for many people a good place to begin the New Year. The main square fills up several hours before midnight when the Cathedral bells ring. Well before midnight the square will be completely full with people waiting for the New Year. Once the clock hits twelve, fireworks are lit up from all over the city and the yearly “whirlwind” starts. “The whirlwind” is the movement of all people on the main square, starting with a walk in counterclockwise circles around the central fountain on the square. It is thought that doing at least 7 rounds on the square will bring good luck and fortune in the New Year. This movement is so massive that it feels like the whole square is moving round its axe.
After all these rituals, it is time for the famous Cusco nightlife to kick off. Cusco has dozens of clubs all providing what the local people and Cusco’s visitors are looking for. Most bars and discotheques hold their own parties, either with live music or DJ’s. Most bars do cover an entrance fee for this night and fill up very quickly. The bars and discotheques remain open till the first rays of sun. The most famous party in Cusco is probably the Fallen Angel New Year’s party. Nevertheless being so popular tickets have to be bought well in advance.
In the morning, when the sun starts coming up, you can find several people leaving the discotheques and start the climb towards the Sacsayhuaman ruins or the Christ statue and from there admire the sun rising over Cusco and the New Year. From the higher parts of the city you can also see the snowcapped Ausangate Mountain. This mountain is one of the most important Apu’s (holy mountains) and if seen in the morning is said to be a bringer of good luck for the year. Nevertheless the clouds may not always allow the mountain to show its face.
Therefore if you may be looking for a special place, guaranteed fiesta's , and the typical Peruvian outgoing celebration atmosphere to celebrate New Year’s this year, Cusco is the place to be.
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