Ecuador’s festivities are full of tradition and every year they brighten Ecuadorians and tourists, who enjoy the cultural, artistic and folklore displayed in these celebrations. Many of the traditional Ecuadorian festivals come from pre-Hispanic times and indigenous elements of the Andean civilizations can be found; in some cases, mixed with other traditions that the Spaniards took in the time of the colonization. Some of the celebrations that are celebrated at a national level are:
In Ecuador, as in many other countries, the New Year is synonymous with leaving behind the past and embarking on a new beginning. One of the most striking traditions is the burning of monigotes (big puppet-like figurines) on New Year’s Eve. The monigotes can be made of paper or cardboard, sawdust, old clothes or any other material, and are refer to as Viejos.
The characters that are built, although there is no standard when it comes to designing them, are inspired by celebrities, politicians, family members or simply someone who during the year gave us some disgust or news. Usually friends or family organize the Año Viejo which means building a “house” for the Viejos, where it is going to be displayed in the street and where the “widows” (men dressed in black as women) will be asking all the cars passing by to help pay for the “burial” of the Viejo. A Will for the New Year is written, containing a lot of poetry and sarcasm.
Celebrated all over Ecuador, but in certain locations in more special ways than others. It is an event that is celebrated with everything from water, foam of carnival, flour or cornstarch, baby powder. In the big festivals, the attendants disguise themselves with elaborate costumes or they paint their face.
In the province of Bolivar, the Carnival of Guaranda offers different festivals and a drink called Pajaro Azul, which is typical of the inter-Andean region. It is prepared based on sugar cane and it has approximately 30 °abv. This alcoholic beverage has a bluish color when the light is reflected, hence its name. The Flowers and Fruits Fest, celebrated in Ambato, is a big parade with decorated trucks showing all crops of the region. Ending in a very big mass outside the Cathedral were the door is also decorated with grains, fruits, and flowers
Another thing we do is getting together with friends and family for “playing carnival”; meaning that we will play and throw water at each other (if we are being conservative), or any other thing available, and have fun and a good time. In the past, walking down the streets in this festivity was a risk of getting wet, latter a fine was put to prevent the misuse of water and people are more respectful. But at large festivals, everything is a GO.
Day of the Dead – Día de los Difuntos or Finados
Celebrated on the day of the All Saints’ Catholic celebration (November 2nd), it is a festivity that is the result of combining an ancient tradition with a Catholic feast. On this day, there are vigils and visits to cemeteries to leave the loved one’s offerings of flowers and traditional food. The typical food of this day is the Colada Morada, which is prepared with black or purple corn flour, accompanied by the famous Guaguas de Pan (bread dolls). They are called guaguas due to their shape, which mimics a smiling baby doll. It is said that in the begging the old custom was to prepare the guaguas with an inedible mass and took to the tombs of the deceased along with the offering of flowers. This custom dates back possibly to the Ecuadorian natives, who made mud figures to carry them to the Huacas (tombs) of their ancestors.
Flowers and memories cover the tombs of all Ecuadorian cemeteries on this day as a signed of how much we miss their presence. The native cultures, however, far from longing, celebrate the renewal of a new life cycle and the passage from one life to another dimension. In some areas, it is still customary to take the deceased’s favorite food to the cemetery and consume it next to his grave.
Easter (Holy Week)
As in many other South American countries, and as a living example of Spanish influence, Easter is one of the most important festivities of the year. Closely related to the Catholic religion, during this week a wide range of ceremonies and celebrations are carried out throughout the different cities of the country. Like Día de los Difuntos, it is also closely linked to Ecuadorian gastronomy, thus, the most important dish is a thick soup called fanesca. According to tradition, the fanesca must be taken on Holy Thursday as if it was the Last Supper.
In Quito, Easter celebrations means an endless number of activities, for example, the tour of the Seven Churches, the procession of Jesus del Gran Poder, or the Arrastre de Caudas ceremony (the only high priests funeral commemoration in honor of Christ of the whole Catholic world, because of its traditions and rituals it is considered a privilege to be able to watch it). In these events, you can see a character called Cucurucho in lilac suits and covered the whole face, so that only the eyes are uncovered. It is very important that the Cucurucho walks barefoot since this is a way to purge their sins.
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