Happy New Year one and all! During our holiday we were fortunate to experience some fabulous Ecuadorian traditions.
Novenas: Christmas is much more religious than commercial here. For Catholics, it is customary for families to gather in homes during the nine days before Christmas to read the bible, pray and sing. We went to a novena at our friends’ house. Noni and Santiago, their five kids and many relatives made us welcome and we had an evening full of all the most important aspects of Christmas: family, love, sharing, hope, redemption, laughter, and togetherness!
Cuenca is known for its Paseo de Nino on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately we missed that parade since we were in Quito (look for a future blog post on that trip!). Hundreds of kids are dressed elaborately in costumes representing biblical figures, typical regional indigenous attire and even the horses are decorated with fruits, vegetables and brilliant fabric. We’ve heard that the parade lasts eight to ten hours.
Monigotes or Old Year Dolls: On New Year’s Eve Ecuadorians burn dummies made of old clothes or paper mache stuffed with paper, straw, leaves and/or firecrackers. The faces are masks that represent everyone from presidents to super heroes to family look-alikes. The dolls are meant to represent the old year and the meaning is simple – out with the old and in with the new. Many celebrants jump over the burning dummies three times to ensure renewal and purification. Evil vanishes in the smoke.
We spent the 31st with Lisa’s Spanish teacher’s (Ana Luisa) family and constructed our monigotes with them. We did some fireworks with the kids while the night was young and the kids were still in good spirits!
Amazingly, at midnight, our kids slept through the noise and commotion of burning monigotes and fireworks. It made us feel a little bit like we were in a war zone and made the US July 4th displays feel like a toddler tea party!
Viudas or Widows: Since the “old men” are burned on the evening of Dec. 31st, that same night young men dress up like women and pretend to be widows in need of money. On our ride home from Ana Luisa’s we were greeted by many “widows” groups – they put up road blocks so you really do have to stop! Luckily you can give them any amount of money and they are happy to let you pass.
Our holiday season was filled with the discovery of new things and marveling at the world’s wonders. We hope you had a joyful holiday season and we wish you a spectacular 2013!
A video of singing at the novena: