My Labor Day Weekend: Zozobra

In early September my first American holiday approached: Labor Day. This long weekend was put into good use when I decided to take a road trip, the first 1.5 days with my friends, the next 2.5 days with the international office. It all started in Albuquerque when Emily, Kat, and I took the train to Santa Fe. That day a terrorism warning had been posted and as we were headed to one of the biggest events in the state, the train was under heavy supervision. In Albuquerque, only one door was opened and everyone had to enter and exit through said door. The station was guarded by officers of the home land security, other officers patrolled the train during the trip between stops, and at every station we stopped at, you could see heavily armed officers. While it felt a little weird, we still felt really safe. In Santa Fe, there was a lot of security, too. Police cars guided the way and helicopters were circling over Magers field. The big event was Zozobra. The name is lent from spanish and roughly translated into “The gloomy one”. It refers to a roughly 16m/55ft tall puppet that will be burned at the end of the night. But it also refers to the festivities with live music, food, dancers, and fireworks. On the official website, Zozobra is described as half demon, half clown. At first, an attorney sentence Zozobra to death, then a parade of torchbearers parade along the feed of the puppet, finally, the fireworks start and the traditional fire dancer (only the second in the 90 year history of the Fiesta) appears, before it is lit on fire by the dancer himself.


It reminded me a lot of the annual “Nubbel”burning in my hometown, that marks the end of carnival season and is supposed to get rid of all the sins committed during the weeks of celebration. The Zozobra is constructed out of wood, chicken wire, and is stuffed with paper. However, it is not any paper. The website states that the shredded paper includes “old police reports, paid-off mortgage papers, divorce papers, and/or stories Santa Feans put on paper about their tales of woe from the year just past.” [1] Further, there is a so called “gloom box” that everyone can put a paper with their worries, wishes, and sorrows in. It will be placed by the feet of the puppet and eventually, burn along with Zozobra. After the burning, we headed to Justin’s house in Santa Fe and celebrated with more friends and food.


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