Zozobra ("Old Man Gloom") is a 50 feet (15 m) high giant marionette effigy that is built and burned during the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico and marks the Fiestas' start. As his name suggests, he embodies gloom; by burning him, people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year in the flames.[1] Anyone with an excess of gloom is encouraged to write down the nature of his or her gloom on a slip of paper and leave it in the "gloom box" found in the offices of the Santa Fe Reporter in the weeks leading up to the burn. Participants can also add documents on the day of the burning, prior to the event, by visiting a "gloom tent" where they can add to the marionette's stuffing. Many people put legal papers in the gloom box as well. At the festival the papers from the gloom box are placed at Zozobra's feet to be burned alongside him.

Zozobra burning 2005.jpg
Zozobra burning in 2005
VenueFort Marcy (New Mexico)
Location(s)Santa Fe, New Mexico
FounderGustave Baumann, Will Shuster
Organised byKiwanis


Fiestas de Santa Fe has been held since 1712 to celebrate the Spanish retaking of the city in 1692 by Don Diego de Vargas from the Pueblo tribes who had occupied the city since the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The burning of Zozobra dates from 1924. Santa Fe woodblock artist and marionette maker Gustave Baumann came up with the idea of creating the effigy,[2] also called Old Man Gloom, and the ritual burning; and then conspired with his friend artist William Howard Shuster, Jr. to burn the first Zozobra. "Zozobra" is a Spanish word for anxiety, worry, or sinking. Baumann's idea might have been influenced by Mexican cartonería (papier-mâché sculpture), especially the effigies exploded during the burning of Judas that takes place on Holy Saturday or New Year's Eve, as a way of ridding oneself or one's community of evil.[citation needed]

Modern celebrationEdit

Zozobra starting to burn

Each year in Santa Fe New Mexico, more than 50,000 people go to watch Zozobra, who stands 50 feet tall. His burning marks the start of three days of celebration that includes traditional mass at St. Francis Cathedral; a Children's Pet Parade; and the Historical/Hysterical Parade. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe builds Zozobra and burns the effigy at Fort Marcy Park. The Zozobra that was burned on September 7, 2007, was certified by Guinness World Records as the largest marionette in the world, measuring 15.21 m (49.11 ft) in height.[3]

The Zozobra burning in Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico has traditionally been held in September; however, ticket sales in advance of the event improved when it was moved to the Friday immediately before Labor Day in 2014.[4]

Event descriptionEdit

Once nightfall arrives fire dancers come out to perform. A "fire spirit dancer" also comes out dressed entirely in red with a flowing headdress and carrying two flaming torches, symbolizing Old Man Gloom’s arch enemy.[5] She is accompanied by the small "glooms," which are children dressed in white dancing alongside her.[6] The fire dancer's role is to scare away her little companions, as she represents the light that sends away the gloom and bad energy of the year.[6] As the dancers perform on stage, Zozobra's arms and head begin to move and he lets out groans.[5][7] After the dance is completed, the marionette is set on fire via attached fireworks. Once the marionette collapses, more fireworks are set off.[5]

List of Zozobra-burning eventsEdit

2007 Zozobra with red hair; the color of his hair changes each year.
Date Hair color
September 10, 2004 orange[8]
September 6, 2007 red
September 4, 2008 green[9]
September 10, 2009 orange[10]
September 9, 2010 blue[11]
September 8, 2011 purple[12]
September 6, 2012 yellow[13]
September 5, 2013 green[14]
August 29, 2014 chartreuse
September 4, 2015 gray[15]
September 2, 2016 black (with black-and-white fedora, after four-year-old Santa Fean boy Seth Cole Liggan suggested at the annual community meeting that Zozobra should wear a hat)[16]
August 31, 2018 gray
September 5, 2020 COVID-19” silver and red


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Old Man Gloom, sorrows up in smoke". United Press International. September 7, 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  2. ^ Dances with ink: Gustave Baumann and his studio, Tom Leech, El Palacio 2009 vol. 114 no. 4 pp. 32-37.
  3. ^ http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/1000/largest-puppetmarionette Guinness World Records Entry for Largest puppet/marionette
  4. ^ "Zozobra organizers see spike in early ticket sales - The Santa Fe New Mexican: Local News". santafenewmexican.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "The burning of Will Shuster's Zozobra". Burn Zozobra.
  6. ^ a b "BURNING of ZOZOBRA". SantaFeNM.info. 2018.
  7. ^ "Join Thousands As We Burn Away Zozobra's Hold on Gloom". SantaFe.org. 2017.
  8. ^ "Image: zozobra_2004_photo_by_lisa_law.jpg, (225 × 300 px)". burnzozobra.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Image: zozobra-2008-kabeyta1.jpg, (700 × 525 px)". burnzozobra.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Image: zozobra-2009-kabeyta2.jpg, (525 × 700 px)". burnzozobra.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Image: zozobra_2010_photo_by_lisa_law.jpg, (1952 × 3264 px)". burnzozobra.com. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Image: zozobra_2011_photo1_by_lisa_law.jpg, (482 × 365 px)". burnzozobra.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  13. ^ "News photos and pictures from the Albuquerque Journal". abqjournal.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Adventure Nickel: Zozobra". egad-ybnormal.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Burn Zozobra Main Page". Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Zozobra revisits 'very dark time'". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  • Zozobra: The Story of Old Man Gloom, Jennifer Owings Dewey; photographed by Jeanie Pulsen Fleming, Santa Fe: University of New Mexico Press, 2004

External linksEdit