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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