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Wild West Junction prepares for annual New Year’s Eve celebration

Party goers light an effigy at the 2015 New Year’s Eve celebration at Wild West Junction. This tradition of burning the old year is symbolic of cleansing the bad from the previous 12 months before the new year commences.

Party goers light an effigy at the 2015 New Year’s Eve celebration at Wild West Junction. This tradition of burning the old year is symbolic of cleansing the bad from the previous 12 months before the new year commences.

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — With few organized events planned for New Year’s Eve, members of the Williams community are hosting a gathering to kick off the New Year right with a celebration at Wild West Junction Dec. 31.

Father Killian McCaffrey from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Wild West Junction restaurant are preparing the celebration to send off the old year and welcome in the new one.

This year’s event will begin at 9 p.m. and will include food and a band.

“We had a huge turnout last year and think it will be even bigger this year,” Killian said. “We will have the same band and the effigy will be bigger and better this year. It’s going to be the personification of the year 2016, which of course the big event was the election. The head of the effigy is going to have three faces — Clinton, Bernie and Trump.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to come to the evening event. There will be family friendly activities for children, with a bear climbing a telegraph pole to mark New Year’s Eve as it arrives in each country.

“The baby bear will be in the picnic basket at the top of the pole,” Killian said. “At midnight we’ll have the mama bear climb the pole and she will knock over the picnic basket with the baby bear and candy. Whoever catches the baby bear falling gets to light the effigy.”

The day will culminate with a burning of the effigy of the old year. McCaffrey said this is a 120-year-old tradition that began in Ecuador. He said Natives will build a life-size effigy called El Ano Viejo (The Old Year). The effigy will represent something from the old year that a person wants to put behind them. McCaffrey wants guests to write down their negative experiences from the past year onto pieces of paper and pin them to the effigy. At midnight, the effigy, as well as the things people wish to leave in the old year, will go up in flames. This way people can achieve closure and start fresh in the New Year.

“Everyone needs to write down their experiences and we’ll attach them to the effigy,” McCaffrey said. “If you voted for Trump and want to forget that you can write it down or if you voted for Hillary and want to forget that you can do that too.”

While the effigy is burning, it is also tradition to grab a suitcase and run around the effigy three times. This will ensure that the suitcase carrier will travel in the New Year. A broom will also be provided so a person can run around the effigy and get unexpected wealth in the New Year, or so the tradition goes.

McCaffrey said wearing brand new yellow underwear is also special on this night. He said the tradition comes from the 1893 yellow fever epidemic where people packed coffins with the clothes of the dead and set them in flames which was a purification rite.

“If you can get yellow underwear, bring them, but they are hard to get,” he said. “In the past they wore yellow underwear to forget the sad year and bring good luck and wealth in the coming year.”

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