December 20, 2009
Along with the generalized trend in most of Latin America, Argentina is not the exception to the tradition of building effigies or puppets, of all sizes, which represent all kinds of characters, to be finally incinerated on the last minutes of the ending year…
This expanded ritual is particularly practiced in the city of La Plata, alongside the namesake river, and it is also found in Buenos Aires, however not in the magnitude that it acquires on the northern Andean countries, especially Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. In La Plata, the tradition of the last decades has been to construct giant sculptures made of a variety of materials, and a contest to elect the very best is a challenge which involves many residents, especially the younger ones. The building job can take weeks and the final product is a complex structure, where no details are overlooked. Nonetheless, these large sculptures will have the same final as all others along the continent: to be burned as the terminating year ends and all the people ready for a lively reception, full of enthusiasm and excitement, to the New Year…. The event is known as the “Quema de Muñecos”, which translates into “the burning of the puppets”.
A core element of the Argentinean celebration for New Year’s Eve is heavily placed on the gastronomy. A most popular and generalized event is to host large family and friends dinners, featuring the renowned Argentine “Asados” (the “gaucho” version of BBQ), with some special variations for the occasion. These could include BBQ pork or tender goat. As usual on the Argentine “Asados”, beef is also present together with sausages and other meat and poultry products, with a common element: being brazed. The meats are accompanied by a wide variety of nicely decorated salads and specialties such as Vitel Toné; green potatoes; pionono and sweet and sour combinations.
Desert is usually made of fruit salads and ice-cream and the entire meal is, of course, complemented by the delightful Argentine wines. For the formal toast to receive the New Year, Champagne and sparkling wines as well as Sidra are a must and these are shared with sweet breads, dried fruits and other sweet delicacies.
The food feast is a ceremony of its own which is meant to unite the families and friends around the searching and buying of the ingredients; the preparation of the BBQ and all of its accompanying dishes; the decoration and, naturally, the actual enjoying and tasting of the banquet, no matter how humble or high-heeled the social class and economic capacity of the persons may be. The idea is to congregate around the food table and to share moments of love, joy and solidarity.
It is also common, especially in the more popular neighborhoods, to share toasts with the neighbors along with noisy fireworks and lively music, in an ambiance of happiness and cheer. After the abundant meals, particularly the younger crowds may head to the discotheques, bars or private parties to dance away the first hours of the New Year. Fireworks fill the air with sounds and color, between 23:00 and 01:00 hours.
For many Argentinean families, the more Spanish custom of eating the twelve grapes at the touch of midnight, is also a popular feature of the End of one Year and Beginning of a New one..