Owru Yari in Suriname – Blasting Away Evil Spirits


For days we’ve been getting the signs that the year is about to end: a pretty much continuous flow of fireworks over the past two days. Luckily the greater part consisted of decorative fireworks.

To fully appreciate the firecrackers you need to be in Paramaribo on December 31. No, not at midnight, but at noon! Its celebration is different from anywhere else we’ve been. And a spectacle at that.

Owru Yari in Suriname

At 10 am, Suriname’s capital is closed for traffic. Police officers leisurely patrol the streets and women issue earplugs sponsored by 3M. Platforms are constructed on street corners and bands tune their instruments.

Food and beer stalls are erected in seemingly random places; Parbo Bier vendors will have to compete with the hard liquor people bring in coolers from home. The atmosphere will remain relaxed — no aggression, no incidents.

Streets are thronged with people. They laugh, show off their latest hairdo, dance, and pose. Live bands, parading brass bands, and blaring music are drowned out when two kilometers of superstring – called the pagara estafette – are lit, pounding against eardrums, filling the streets with smoke and red debris. But the evil spirits are gone.

Party Time

After the Pagara Estafette it’s party time. Live bands, dancing in the street, flowing of borgoe (rum) cola and beer.

Young and old hop and spin to Suriname’s rhythms. It has the madness of Carnival. At 11:30 PM, everybody returns home. Houses need to be cleared of evil spirits as well, preferably at exactly midnight.

Part of this blog post was first published on Matador Network.

For more on Suriname, check out these articles:


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