Skip to main content

The Burning of Zozobra

Other Spectacular Places in New Mexico

On the first Thursday in September a man is burned in Santa Fe, New Mexico to help his prosecutors get rid of their gloom. He stands a whopping 20 feet high and wears a bow tie. His angry eyes are highlighted by his large frowning lips. Each year his hair may be a different color from the previous years and his name is Zozobra, or Old Man Gloom.



Zozobra is made in the weeks preceding his burning by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe. He is made of chicken wire and paper. He is the official kick off to the Fiesta de Santa Fe, a weekend long event that highlights traditional American Indian and Spanish customs from around the state of New Mexico. Zozobra is placed in Fort Marcy Park by rigging and ropes. Visitors who come to see him burn may even submit their own worries and fears by writing them on a piece of paper that is then placed inside of Zozobra to be burned later in the evening. This ceremony gives people a way to overcome their hardships. He remains silent and still on the afternoon of his burning but as the sun begins to set he becomes alive.


When Fort Marcy Park is completely dark and all worries and fears have been placed inside him, Zozobra is surrounded by fire dancers. They circle him for more than a few minutes leading to the climax of burning this ghastly Old Man Gloom who will help us get through another year of hardships. The fire comes close but does not ignite. Then, out of no where sparks fly straight for his heart.

His moaning and groaning gets louder. His arms flail about and his face turns this way and that way. His glowing eyes are no longer fearsome but sad. As the fire fully engulfs him and the crowd cheers louder, he becomes silent. Then it appears all the sorrow and gloom in life disappears. Although Zozobra is burned, he still helps us get through difficult times. He helps the weight be lifted and a weekend of traditional foods and shopping for cultural items may commence. The Fiesta de Santa Fe is a celebration for the many people that have lived and continue to live in Santa Fe and across New Mexico to forget their troubles and socialize in the beautiful, historic downtown Santa Fe. The burning of Old Man Gloom's is not in vein. He unites the people of New Mexico and reminds us not to take life so seriously. There is plenty of fun to be had during life too, especially on this special weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Scroll to Continue

© 2012 morningstar18

Related Articles