Zozobra: “Burn him down!”

You could hear the chanting from a mile away. “Burn him down! Burn him down!” People by the thousands were flooding into the stadium, waiting anxiously for the 49-foot puppet to be engulfed in flames.

Zozobra is a tradition that has been celebrated in Santa Fe, N.M., since 1926. The puppet made of paper is dressed in white and green, representing Old Man Gloom. The festival is celebrated as a time to release your somberness by writing down your repent on a piece of paper, and watching your sorrows go up in smoke.

As people got closer to the stadium, they could see young children dressed in green and white imitating Old Man Gloom, slowly swaying back and forth. The crowd of thousands, including this reporter, waited anxiously. They were discussing the glooms they were anxious to rid themselves of. Sorrows including divorce, drinking and guilt seemed to be a common theme.

Suddenly, fireworks on both sides of the tower began shooting off. The crowd’s cheering was climaxing. The sound of the fireworks lighting the puppet were loud and sizzling and sparks were flying everywhere.

All of a sudden, “Whoosh!” The puppet was a fiery tower.  Spectators could feel the warmth of the fire on their faces. As he burned, pieces of his paper mache body began falling off. The crowd was ecstatic. When Old Man Gloom was completely disintegrated, more fireworks went off, celebrating the cleansing.

After the burning, excited spectators chatted about the experience.

“It was a blast, it burned all the bad vibes, I feel better myself right now … It was very communal,” said one 20-something local resident.

“The fireworks were my favorite part,” said an excited 9-year-old.

Megan Sargent, one of Castleton students at the event as part of the Santa Fe semester, was eager to share her enjoyment.

“It was awesome! My favorite part was the final tension before Old Man Gloom was completely destroyed!” she said.

As people began leaving the stadium, they couldn’t help but feel a positive energy in the air. People seemed happier, lighter. Theirtroubles, at least for the moment, felt forever gone, burned, up in smoke.

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