Yellow for New Year in Peru

Medardo Verastegui Inga performs the Huaconada dance in Mito, Peru on New Year’s Day, 2019.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Peruvians have several long-standing traditions associated with celebrating the arrival of the New Year and the colour yellow is a big part of that. Many people dress up in yellow clothing, the most noticeable being yellow hats, sunglasses, boas, and tee shirts. Beneath all of that, wearing yellow underwear is the way to go.

Stalwarts of the tradition are even said to wear their underpants/panties inside out until midnight is struck, then reverse them, although that might be a little more difficult to do in a public place. In Mito, some of the Huacons (the name given to these masked dancers), choose to wear a yellow “delantal” (a satin apron) to dance on New Year’s Day to help ensure it will be a good year.

Yellow goods

Street vendors, shops and market stalls in Peru are full of yellow goods for sale in the closing days of the year. Limeños, cusquenos, huancaínos (the people from Lima, Cusco, and Huancayo) and more as well as the Peruvian diaspora across the world make their purchases and join in the fun. In the past, yellow flower petals were collected and spread around the home. Nowadays it’s more likely that yellow paper confetti get used, to scatter inside and out on the streets as fireworks are set off at midnight.

A market stall in Lince, Lima, Peru filled with yellow goods for New Year celebrations. © J. Ashley Nixon

Why yellow?

The colour of the sun is seen as a symbol of positive energy, for renewal, growth, cleansing or preparing, as well as for happiness. So, this primary colour is perfect for wearing, and bringing in the New Year.

More traditions: grapes and a run around the block

In common with many Peruvians, we follow two other traditions in our household in Canada during the New Year celebrations. The first is to eat twelve grapes at midnight, making a wish for health and happiness after each one is consumed (this ritual is actually conducted by us under the dining table!). Next comes a run around the block with a suitcase or bag carrying items you believe will bring you and your loved ones good fortune in the New Year. My passport, compass and, for me of course, a camera are essential items to pack. Again, that ritual has been extended by me to accommodate the Scottish traditions of first footing during Hogmanay, by ensuring there is an item of food, drink, and fuel in my bag.

Maria Cristina Cotrina Adrianzen, a Limeñan, celebrates the New Year in Lima, Peru. © J. Ashley Nixon

Behind the Mask

Please visit Betula Books to see or purchase a copy of the book Behind the Mask, featuring more photographs of the Huaconada in Mito and interviews with some of the dancers.

Documentary about the Huaconada de Mito

Please visit here to read about and see my documentary film about the Huaconada de Mito, La Máscara y Más.

Happy New Year! Feliz Ańo Nuevo!

2 comments on “Yellow for New Year in Peru

  1. monkeyperu

    Great yellow… good luck Ashley in 2020 !!’


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