Feliz Año Nuevo

In Ecuador celebrating the coming of the New Year can be quite a fiery tradition.  Año Viejo (Old Year) sees a symbolic tradition of burning effigies.  The effegies are burnt to say good bye to any anger and regrets from the old year in order to usher in the resolutions of the new one.

The Ecuadorian people construct effigies that represent a dissapointment from the past year such as a particular political figure.  You will also find numerous vendors on street corners selling effigies of all shapes and sizes.  Of course the fun is also in creating your own effigy.  Generally you collect old clothes and make a dummy which is stuffed with crumpled newspaper.  Masks can also be bought from the vendors which can complete your effigy.  Then hand written notes are pinned to the dummy explaining why it must be burned and what changes and possible improvements are desired for the New Year.

At midnight to the sound of fireworks, people cheering and clapping the effigy is burnt in the middle of the street until it is just a pile of ashes.  The dummy is supposed to trap all the bad things from the old year and supposedly helps to prevent those energies from re surfacing in the New Year.

In cities like Cuenca this can become quite a competition between neighborhoods.  Whole streets are blocked off to a particular theme.  For instance one year one neighborhood made effigies to the theme of the Michael Jackson – Thriller movie.

It is said that this custom came about when there was a very bad epidemic of yellow fever and mass burnings of corposes was required.

Many Ecuadorians jump over the fire once for every month to bring good luck. However, the fire gets pretty big so you have to be brave, and fit as it takes a lot of energy to make it completely over all 12 times.

Some Ecuadorians eat 12 grapes.  One grape for each month of the year with a wish of what they would like to achieve for that moment.  (i.e. January – find love, February – lose weight)

In some cities such Women wear coloured underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring them luck for the year. Red is supposed to bring love, yellow brings wealth.  I am thinking a combiniation of striped red and yellow underwear could work.

Locals throw coins into the fire to bring them financial luck for the year and rice into the fire to make sure they will have an abundance of food on the table.

On the coast neighborhood children get together and select one of  the boys of the group to dress up as the widow. They then set barriers for cars to stop and ask for coins for the “oldie.” The widow weeps that their loved one passed and they have no money.

If the car does not give up change to their neighbors children they do not release the rope barrier although this rarely happens as the kids are happy even with only a few cents.

Throughout Ecuador you will find the burning of effigies.  As far as the above traditions they tend to differ throughout the country.

Wishing you all a very Happy Feliz Año Nuevo 2013


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