Alasitas: Abundance in the New Year

Alasitas: Abundance in the New Year

In La Paz, Bolivia, the new year is welcomed with the month-long festival of Alasitas. The festival has its roots in the custom of the indigenous people, the Aymara, who prayed for good crops in the coming year and gave each other gifts. In pre-conquest times, these gifts were often miniatures representing what people would like to receive or achieve in the new year.

Leslie Jamison writes about this tradition in The Empathy Exams: “For three weeks, the markets around the Parque Urbano are full of tiny objects, tiny everything: tiny horses, tiny computers, tiny diplomas, tiny houses, tiny Jeeps, tiny llamas and tiny llama steaks, tiny passports.”

Jamison continues, “People buy models of whatever they need most: a new house, a new farm animal, enough food to last the year. They offer their miniature figurines to a miniature man—Ekeko, the midget, also the Aymara god of abundance, a smoking doll cloaked in bright wool. They pin their miniature desires to his miniature poncho.”

Originally held in October, Alasitas was moved to January 24 to coincide with the celebration of Our Lady of Peace, for whom La Paz is named.

Consider making a representation of what you most want in the new year. I’m gathering with friends this year to make my new-year collage, which is my version, but it would also be fun to create or purchase a three-dimensional symbol of your dreams for the coming year.

First published January 2016. 

Image from our Fireweed 2022 wall calendar featuring artwork by Anahata Joy. 

Waverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

Posted by Waverly Fitzgerald on 1st Jan 2022