THE FIRST TIMER’S GUIDE TO ZOZOBRA
Zozobra Newbie? Get ready for Santa Fe’s hottest party! One of New Mexico’s most enduring icons, Zozobra was created in 1924 by legendary artist Will Shuster and is now set ablaze annually by the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club. The Next Burning of Zozobra takes place on the Friday before Labor Day, Friday, September 01, 2023 and it’s the very best way to shake off the whatever has been bothering you.
There are no current COVID restrictions in place. While masks are optional, masking is encouraged and masks will be available for free at the venue. We have increased the number of hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be available. There will be a vaccination booth on site. We will institute any changes required on Friday, September 1, 2023 by Federal and State public health officials.
Who is Zozobra?
One of New Mexico’s treasured events and most historic traditions, the Burning of Zozobra showcases the Original Burning Man, predating the Black Rock newcomer by 60 years. Will Shuster’s creation originated as a homely 6-foot effigy made to entertain friends and family, and over the decades has morphed into a towering 50-footer, one of the world’s tallest fully functioning marionettes. His bones of wood and wire shrouded in endless yards of cotton cloth, Zozobra is stuffed with an absolute mountain of shredded paper. Tucked inside his enormous body are slips of paper inscribed with a year’s worth of gloomy thoughts and disappointments, destined to go up in smoke when he is set alight in a fiery extravaganza culminating in the city’s finest fireworks display.
What’s this gloomy guy’s backstory? An empty-headed monster, out to wreak havoc whenever and wherever he can, Santa Fe’s biggest trouble-maker gladly takes the blame––or rather the credit––for everything that goes wrong in life. Zozobra, whose name comes from a Spanish expression meaning “the gloomy one,” has a fascinating history worth discovering, and any Santa Fesino has tales to share of this local outlaw’s dastardly deeds. But for now, let’s take you right into the heart of this famous New Mexico event.
The When and The Where of Zozobra
First things first. In a big reveal, Zozobra is introduced to his loyal fans at the annual ZozoFest, a free all-things-Zozobra event with a virtual art gallery exhibit of amazing Zozobra-themed art, taking place from August 25-27, 2023.
Seen in pieces, with Zozobra’s massive head looking out over the gargantuan torso full of all things gloomy –– divorce papers, report cards, pink slips –– it’s all gone in there –– the old grouch doesn’t seem quite so threatening. But just you wait until the main event!
The Burning of Zozobra takes place annually on the Friday of Labor Day weekend at Fort Marcy Park in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, next occurring on Friday, September 01, 2023. The Zozobra Show starts at 9:10 p.m., weather permitting. Weather conditions may require an earlier or later start time, but Zozobra is a rain or shine event and will burn regardless of the elements!
Still have questions? Check out the FAQ.
What’s the scoop on Zozobra?
With 2024’s 100th anniversary approaching, the Club recognized that this momentous occasion needed to be at the forefront of planning. In 2014, with ten years to go until 2024, Event Chair Ray Sandoval came up with the idea of honoring the legacy of this historic Santa Fe event by journeying through each successive decade since Zozobra’s first appearance in 1924. And with that in mind, the Decades Project was born.
In 2014, Year One, Zozobra went way back to the Roaring 1920s, with a handlebar mustache and a maroon waistband, his hands tied behind his back to demonstrate his outlaw status. Year Two, 2015, saw Old Man Gloom deeply invested in the Depression Era. Designed in grayscale to mirror the struggles of the era, he was bald and fat around the middle, thanks to the extreme gloom he spread throughout the 1930s.
2016, Year Three, took Zozobra into the 1940s WW2 era. In recognition of the profound and far-reaching consequences of that time, the Kiwanis partnered with the Santa Fe Jewish Center – Chabad, adding a special Holocaust Memorial on Thursday, September 1, 2016, the 77th anniversary of the start of WWII and 75th anniversary of the date when the Jewish population of Germany was ordered to wear a yellow Star of David, and gays, gypsies and outsiders were similarly marked and publicly shamed.
2017, Year Four of the Decades Project, brought Zozobra squarely into the Mad Men 1950s, and his “Father Knows Worst” 50s style cardigan sweater was a nod to the “Father Knows Best” era.
2018, Year Five, saw the Kiwanis Club channeling the good vibes of the 1960s, but knowing Zozobra, he will be feeling anything but good!
2019, Year Six of the Decades Project took Zozobra into the 1970s disco era, and it was a blast to boogie down with Zozobra and see a crowd of almost 64,000 people all singing along to the YMCA song!
2020 put the Decades Project into a temporary hiatus as a result of the global pandemic, but the Live broadcast and webcast of the burning was EPIC!
In 2021, the Decades Project returned to send Zozobra on a visit to the totally rad times of the mixtape 1980s until he was gone-gone-gone!
The 411 for 2022? The Zozobra New Mexico cultural festival bounced right into the 1990’s with a party that was absolutely da bomb for a record crowd!
In 2023, the Zozobra Decades Project will complete its 10-year journey through Zozobra’s existence in 2023 with a sweet visit to the millennium 2000s and 2010s as we look ahead to Zozobra’s 2024 Centennial!
How To Be An Expert Gloom Burner
Burning your gloom is an easy task for us and we can’t wait to do it for you because we want to send your worries up in smoke with Zozobra.
Relationship gone south? Boss too bossy? Had it up to here with the virus? Whatever it is, we will burn your gloom for you!
Or want to be a little introspective? What have you done to cause gloom for others this year? What part of you do you want to leave in the past? What are you ready to let go of co you can start anew?
Santa Fe, NM, has the answer –– the original burning man, Zozobra, a weird, wonderful, one-of-a-kind, 98-year-old tradition! An eerie 50-foot tall marionette, Zozobra embodies the gloom built up through this difficult year, moaning and groaning as he battles his mortal enemy, the Fire Spirit brought to life by the collective goodwill of all who yearn for a better world. For 99 years, the City of Santa Fe has built and burned Zozobra, stuffing him from head to toe with thousands of glooms –– bad habits, hurt feelings, our own failings, old love letters, divorce papers, photos, paid-off mortgages, parking tickets, –– all placed on paper to go up in smoke when this New Mexico icon goes down in flaming fury.
Filled to the top of his gloomy head, Zozobra will burn bigger and brighter than ever because of the woes and worries that accumulate each year. During this one of a kind cultural event in New Mexico, every gloom will be printed out on paper and stuffed inside Zozobra to burn on Friday, September 01, 2023.
We have more ways to make the most of Zozobra!
- Get your Zozobra gear here and dress up when you watch Zozobra go down in flames.Toast the end of gloom with a ZozoRita, with a recipe and video how-to from our partners at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
- Post pictures of your Zozobra night on your social media and use the hashtags #zozobra and #burnmygloom for a chance to be featured on Zozobra’s social media.
- Gather the full force ot your goodwill and faith in the future to call forth the Fire Spirit, Zozobra’s mortal foe, who will battle the feelings of sorrow and despair that Zozobra has gathered to give him strength.
- Don’t forget to shout “Burn Him” when the Fire Spirit appears!
- Experience the freedom from gloom that happens when Zozobra goes down in flames.
- Witness New Mexico’s best fireworks display as you sing along to a song that you know and love.
- Go to bed in the best mood ever and dream of a happier tomorrow
Are You Ready to Burn Him?
In the darkness, the Zozobra Orchestra launches into an eerie funereal tune and trapped on his pole, Zozobra––who arrogantly assumed he was the evening’s guest of honor––swivels his head side to side, angrily trying to see what’s happening. Flailing his arms and growling for help, he calls out his gang of gloomies to rescue him and exact revenge, but alas for Zozobra, they are chased away by a parade of torch-bearing townsfolk who set bonfires alight on the stage. The threat of disaster looming, Zozobra snarls in rage and frustration, only to be met at last by the appearance of the Fire Spirit, his age-old arch-enemy.
As the crowd chants, “Burn him,” the Fire Spirit draws strength and inspiration from their approval, dancing up and down, taunting the gloomy giant whose frenzied howls cannot prevent his appointment with destiny. Blazing torches in each hand, the Fire Spirit sends sparks aloft to Zozobra’s head, where his fate is sealed in flames and gloom is vanquished for yet another year under a dazzling fireworks display. This festival is a must see cultural activity, unique to New Mexico and Santa Fe.
Why Add Zozobra to My Annual Must-Do List?
Sound like autumn’s hottest adventure? ABSOLUTELY! The Decades Project leading up to Zozobra’s 100th anniversary in 2024 means a new experience with a new Mr. Z every year for an amazing event in New Mexico year after year.
SAVE THE DATE, Friday, September 01, 2023 to watch Zozobra burn! Join the faithful who share the time year after year from around the globe to cast off the sorrows of the past and renew their spirits together in Santa Fe, the City Different, with the most different tradition ever!