Tag Archives: burning

Burning the Past Year

“So, in Ecuador, around New Year’s Eve, around the holidays really, we have this tradition of burning el año viejo. And what that is is that artists from around the country will each work on, uhhh, these piñata-type things, uhh, and they’ll be different characters, and the characters will range from Kung Fu Panda, Bugs Bunny to Donald Trump, Obama, uhh, like political figures to cartoon characters like they cover the whole spectrum,and their life-size and little and and they cost, they cost money to get these. And inside they have explosives. Umm… *laughs* And on New Year’s Eve, ummm, what everyone will do was, is that you’ll gather around el año viejo, umm, and at midnight you burn it, uhh, so you light a match and the thing will go off. Umm, and it’s supposed to be like quemando like burning all of your grievances from the past year and like starting anew from like the ashes. So that’s what we do. It’s fun.”

Burning el año viejo or burning the old year is a tradition that I’ve heard of in another societies, as well. In Cuba, for example, people will make effigies out of straw that represent the past year, and they will burn them on New Year’s Eve. Ecuador seems to take it a step further, though, by bringing in artists to make special effigies. It seems the burning has become less rigid in their culture, since they’re burning even cartoon characters or whatnot. The symbolism has been lost. It sounds more like a celebration, something to do out of habit, than something that’s supposed to be symbolic. In fact, it almost seems like a joke, especially if they’re burning effigies in the shape of political figures such as Trump or Obama.

Yet nonetheless, the source acknowledges the sense of burning away “grievances” and whatnot. So while the tradition may not look the same as it maybe did in the past, it still holds the same meaning. It reminds me of the phoenix when it bursts into flames and is born again from the ashes. Perhaps it has some kind of connection to there.

Burn yourself to go to paradise

Informant: “My parents told me that a man once told a girl that if she burned herself, she would go to heaven. And that’s what she did. She burned herself. She was saved, but she’s was like deformed. And then she died. It was all because of that religion and the cult. That’s why my parents don’t want me to believe in religion.”

Me: “Have you heard this story from anyone else?”

Informant: “Yes. My friends’ moms know about it too!”

Me: “Do you know what religion it was that caused people to burn themselves?”

Informant: “It was that exercise cult thingy.”

Me: “How does that make you feel? Do you believe in religion?”

Informant: “Any religion that makes you burn yourself is bad. It is not real. It’s… bad. Just bad. I don’t believe in religion because my mom and dad told me that it’s bad.”

Analysis: Through research discovered that the informant was talking about the Falun Gong practictioners and the incident in TianAnMen Square in 2001. Falun Gong is a spiritual exercise, similar to Taichi. In 2001, a group of five people (including one twelve year old girl) set themselves on fire in the middle of TianAnMen square. The incident caused major controversy in China.

This retelling of the story of the self-immolation incident in Tiananmen square is an example of an event improperly portrayed by the media, and through word of mouth became a warning against all religion. In reality, there is no evidence that the people who participated in that incident practiced Fa Lun Gong, according to the article.

China has always been a relatively atheist country. During Mao Ze Dong’s reign, he did an attack on the Four Olds, including old culture, which included religion. At the time, the primary religion of choice in China was Buddhism, but with the drive for “New Thought”, many young revolutionists abandoned religion. This may have contributed to the informant’s parents’ thoughts on religion being bad, as they would’ve been teenagers at the time of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.

Annotation: http://en.minghui.org/cc/88/

Fa Lun Gong Burning