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Photo of giant puppet, Zozobra
Zozobra, or Old Man Gloom, in his final moments before burning, Sante Fe, 1999

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Zozobra Festival
A Local Legacy

What is Zozobra? It's the Spanish word for "the gloomy one."

Every year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Kiwanis Club starts off the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe with the burning of Zozobra, an effigy of Old Man Gloom. An effigy is an image or figure that represents a person -- usually a disliked one. To the people of Santa Fe, Old Man Gloom represents the hardships and difficulties of the past year. They burn him in effigy to clear away the gloom and bring in a new, better year. The burning is a kind of ritual, or symbolic act.

Zozobra is a giant puppet made of sticks covered with chicken wire and muslin, a cotton fabric. He is stuffed with lots of shredded paper. Creating Zozobra every year is a big project, especially because he gets larger every year. In 1999, the effigy was 51 feet tall!

Zozobra waves his arms and growls as he is brought out to be burned. Dancers perform around him as the crowds yell for their bad luck -- and Zozobra -- to go away.

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