New Year’s Day is a public holiday in Panama every 1 January. On the eve of this holiday there are special meals and get togethers and plenty of countdowns to midnight.
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In public squares of Panama City or other towns, you may see floats roll by around midnight, carrying dancers and blasting out loud salsa music. Some on board the floats may toss lit firecrackers all around on the street, virtually “lighting up” the square.
In the rural areas of Panama, it is common to see muñecos, which are life-sized “scarecrows” made to look like actual people. They may represent bad memories from the previous year one would like to forget, someone who caused them trouble, or an unpopular politician. They are set on fire at midnight, or sometimes, they have firecrackers inside and are blown up for fun. In some locales, there are even public muñeco contests with prizes to be won.
Finally, many will also head to the beaches on New Year’s Eve or Day. At Panama City Beach, there is often a “Beach Ball Drop” where a big, lit-up beach ball and fireworks are used to signal the new year. The lead-up includes a live band, food, strolling through Pier Park, other entertainment, and of course, swimming.