Embracing the New Year in Ecuador

Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year! Ecuador’s custom to welcome in the New Year is “out with the old”. I’m waiting to see what “in with the new” will be.

The old is symbolized by papier-mâché  masks and large characters called monigotes which may represent anything real or imagined. These are effigies of well-known figures, Disney-like characters, or creatures from another world and can be six or more feet in height and elaborately decorated. They are stuffed with paper, cardboard, sawdust, or other materials and sometimes dressed in old clothes. A person may make his own mask or character or more likely, purchase one already made.

The masks and effigies offer visual delight to old and young alike. They are put on display in front of homes and businesses, anywhere along the street, or in parks and other public spaces. At midnight, they are ignited to burn away the bad things of the current year. They must be completely burned to prevent  any of the year’s displeasures from returning. While they burn, one custom is to jump over them 12 times to wipe away all bad things encountered each month. This can be a little dangerous, especially if the characters are filled with firecrackers.

My own neighborhood park was a site to behold with many of these characters on display for the evening burning. It was difficult to get close while individuals were assembling  their displays, but I attempted to get some pictures from behind the fences. When the evening came, there was constant noise from firecrackers and a band broadcasting all over the neighborhood until 5 o’clock in the morning.

Today, there will be piles of ashes all over the streets and parks. I will step over these and go looking for what is new in the New Year.

Fact: Another custom is to eat 12 grapes at midnight
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Author: Warren R. Johnson

I am a US citizen living in Cuenca, Ecuador. I have retired from two long-lasting careers: an ordained minister with an exclusive ministry in sacred music (organist-choirmaster), and a book dealer (2 stores and Internet selling). Another shorter career was as a data manager in medical research. Today, I am pursuing a writing career.

One thought on “Embracing the New Year in Ecuador”

  1. Wow! What an interesting tradition, and (as you termed it) a “visual delight”. However, I’m not sure I’d enjoy hearing noise all night long! I like parties, but not going on into the dawn. It’s great fun, though, to read your descriptions of all the new experiences, which allow Dan and me to travel vicariously. What is the significance of the 12 grapes at midnight? Chewing up the past 12 months, or making the next 12 palatable? Happy New Year!

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