The 2017 New Year’s dolls of  Chame

It’s New Year’s in the Pacific Beaches of Panama, how can you tell? Well, one indication is the traffic, the other (more exciting) tradition are the Judas dolls!

Each year these iconic dolls are burned on the 31st  at midnight. The most popular characters this year are footballer Román Torres, coach Hernán ’Bolillo’ Gómez and singer Erika Ender. American president Donald Trump, president Juan Carlos Varela, and Spider Man are also among this year’s Chame Muñecos. 

Making a “Muñeco de año Viejo” or in English, an Old Year Doll is a family tradition in the western part of the Province of Panama, specifically in the towns of Chame, Bejuco and San Carlos.  “Muñecos de año Viejo” or “Los Judas” (The Judas)  are intended to keep negative sentiments of the past year, in the past.

Tonight the dolls will be stuffed full of fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, their burning symbolizes the fresh start to the year and a goodbye to the unwanted past.

This year, soccer player Torres has been the most requested. While prices range between $25 and $300, depending on their size and detail, this year a doll of Román Torres was sold for $400. A local doll maker will also make dolls upon customer’s requests. "This year someone asked me for one in the image of his sister-in-law." 

However, no matter if the doll sells, all dolls are burned on New Year’s Eve. In Chame it is a community tradition for families to gather 1 minute before midnight to burn the dolls together, everyone stays together until the last doll is burnt.

The materials used to make the dolls are items that have been discarded such as paper, cardboard, used clothing, old shoes. Sticks and wires give the shape and firmness to the structure. Dried leaves, stems or grass are used for filling.