If you have ever traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, you might know Zozobra. Zozobra is “Old Man Gloom” and every year a giant marionette effigy is built and burned (by the Kiwanas who now carry on the tradition) as part of Fiestas de Santa Fe. The idea is that Zozobra embodies gloom, anguish and anxiety, and by burning him the people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year in flames. Those who have excess gloom are invited to write it down on paper and place it in the “gloom box” at the local newspaper office. Many people put legal papers in the gloom box. All the papers in the gloom box then get burned with Zozobra.
What I appreciate about Zozobra is that it is a ritual that invites people to symbolically let go of the previous year’s troubles. Rituals are important for us as humans as they cross thresholds in their lives, and other times as well. Unfortunately, somewhere in the history of Christianity the value of ritual got diminished, if not erased. We still have rituals in the Christian tradition: communion, baptism, passing the peace, lighting candles, only we don’t think of them as rituals.