The Ecological Way to Celebrate the Burning of the Devil in Guatemala

Devil Piñata from Guatemala

The Burning of the Devil celebrations in La Antigua Guatemala are done differently than in the rest of Guatemala. (See, one more truth for the upcoming debate about how La Antigua Guatemala is not Guatemala.) If you follow the links above to the entry for December 7th, 2006, you will see that in La Antigua Guatemala, there is a single devil which is placed on podium between two antique, but working gas stations in the barrio of La Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción (Virgin of the Immaculate Conception neighborhood) where a will or testament is read for the devil, which usually means all kinds of gossip about politicians, prominent and ordinary people alike. If you can read Spanish, you can visit my entry of Quema del diablo en La Antigua for December 7th, 2005 which shows the devil’s inferno before the burning.

On the other hand, or rather in the rest of the country, Guatemalans take out all their trash, or even go around the neighborhood collecting inflammable materials like tires, plastics and whatever can create the biggest bonfire. They also buy as much powder in the form of firecrackers to add the soundtrack to the burning of devil celebrations around 18 hours on December 7. Needless to say many people who have awaken to the realization of the damage this burning causes to the environment locally and globally have raised their voice and opinion against such celebrations, specifically the burning of all the toxic stuff.

So with this new epiphany came new ideas for celebrating the Burning of the Devil without actually burning anything. One such idea is to hold a piñata-breaking party with the family and friends. One more ecological approach was taken by Manolo on his Toronteco blog by translating an article by Ronald Flores entitled Al diablo con eso which deals with the symbolic burning all the negative stuff we carry around. Below you can read the first two teaser paragraph and if you like continue reading the rest of in English or Spanish with the links at the end of the quoted text.

I don’t know who came up with the parochial idea of taking the old mattresses out to the street, the piles of papers that were gathering dust and mold, and burn them as night falls. I’ve been told that it has been said that the devil hides in the corners of the houses, among old things, within the garbage that we accumulate throughout the year without knowing why we do.

I’ve been told that burning that pile of trinkets and useless printed material made the devil burn on his very own inferno, and that this custom was necessary to begin the Christmas season with a clean home. Within that context, I confess that I have practiced more than once this interesting purification ritual. I have thrown to the flames notebooks from subjects I detested during the year, letters from unsuccessful loves and reproaches that I have received or that I have written without sending, pictures where I didn’t come up as I wanted, manuscripts of novels that I will never touch again… (Continue reading in English at El Torenteco blog or in Spanish at the Ronald Flores web site.)

For those of you who are not pyromaniacs, but like reading and since we broke short the library tour, I recommend reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The number “451” refers to the temperature (in Fahrenheit) at which a book or paper spontaneously combusts.

For those who would rather break a piñata than playing around with fire, I present to you the Lucky 7 Burning of the Devil Piñata for you to fill it with all your frustration and negative vibes and virtually burn it or break it with your mouse, trackball or tablet until your let it all out. Happy Burning of the Devil everyone!

© 2007 – 2020, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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