The burning of Zozobra origin, also known as Old Man Gloom, is fascinating and deeply rooted in cultural traditions and community catharsis. It started in 1924 when Santa Fe artist William Howard Shuster, Jr. created a 6-foot effigy inspired by the Yaqui Indians’ tradition of burning an effigy of Judas during Easter Holy Week to symbolize the eradication of evil. The term “Zozobra” itself conveys feelings of anguish, anxiety, or gloom in Spanish.

Over the years, Zozobra has evolved into a towering 50-foot-tall marionette filled with glooms, representing regrets, painful memories, and consequences of bad behavior, alongside symbols of relief and celebration such as paid-off mortgages or divorce papers.

burning of zozobra

Hundreds of volunteers from the local Kiwanis Club and the Santa Fe community create Zozobra annually. They work together to plan, build, and hoist the effigy, making it a deeply cherished tradition for locals and visitors alike.

The 100th Burning of Zozobra on August 30th, 2024, is a significant event marked by hours of live music, delicious food, and merchandise. As dusk falls, the mood shifts, with torch-bearing townfolk chasing away Zozobra’s gang of gloomies and setting bonfires on the stage. This angers Zozobra further, especially with the appearance of his arch-enemy, the Fire Spirit. The event’s culmination sees Zozobra set ablaze amidst chants of “Burn Him!” from the crowd, culminating in a dazzling fireworks display.

In preparation for the 100th anniversary, a Decades Project was initiated in 2014. This project gave Zozobra a thematic makeover reflecting the styles and sounds of each decade, from the swanky 1920s to the tubular 1980s, capturing the spirit of each era in its presentation.

People often ask, can I watch the Burning of Zozobra from Fort Marcy? Yes, there are multiple locations where you can see the burning from the property, or you can easily walk to the festival.

What: The 100th Burning of Zozobra
When: August 30th, 2024 (dusk)
Where: Santa Fe, NM
Lodging: Fort Marcy Suites

We hope you can join us!