Galapagos Travel Tips & News by HAUGAN CRUISES


How We Do The Festive Season In Ecuador

December truly is a wonderful time of year. We humans begin embracing our festive side and thinking of our New Year resolutions. While the wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, end their year with new mates and an abundance of beautiful new life.

Christmas and NYE are celebrated the world over but come with different traditions. Of course, some things never vary, such as festive songs playing on repeat in the stores and radio. And watching our children reenact the Nativity is always part of the celebratory process. But there are some differences here and there. And being the proud Ecuadorians that we are, we’d love to share ours with you.

Christmas In Ecuador

Christmas in Ecuador is a time for friends and family. We traditionally begin our Christmas season on December 16th with Novena. It refers to the nine days of preparation for the birth of Jesus. Each night represents each month Mary carried her child. During this time, we sing carols and dedicate our prayers to the poor and sick.

On Christmas Eve, we gather with our loved ones to enjoy the Cena de Nochebuena. It is a traditional meal consisting of stuffed turkey, grapes and raisins, salads, rice with cheese and wine.

Come midnight we make our way to the local church for the Misa del Gallo. So named, as it is believed that the birth of Jesus was the only time a rooster crowed at midnight. And despite this being quite a lengthy mass, it is still very popular and draws in huge crowds. The remainder of Christmas Day is then spent exchanging gifts and visiting family members.

The concept of Father Christmas is still relatively new here in Ecuador. However, children always write out their wish lists before Christmas. The difference here is that those lists are not sent to Father Christmas. Instead, we leave them in an old shoe next to our beds. On Christmas Day, Papa Noel delivers the presents and replaces the shoe with a new pair.

Pasa del Niño Viajero

Exclusive to the mountain town of Cuenca, the Pasa del Niño Viajero began when a statue of the baby Jesus was taken to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. When the statue returned someone could be heard exclaiming “the traveller has returned”. From that day, the statue was known as the ‘travelling child’.

Now, every December 24th a parade takes place through the town with each float illustrating religious themes. It is a truly wonderous sight to behold with actors, dancers and farm animals such as horses and llamas taking part. The lead float carries the Niño Viajero, which is taken to the Catedral de la Inmaculada for the Misa del Gallo.

New Years Eve in Ecuador

Just as with Christmas, some of our traditions are the same as other countries. For example, we have huge parties and large firework displays. But we also have a few traditions that are not so commercial.

  • Making and burning Monigotes
    A monigote is a doll representing everything you want to leave behind when entering the new year. These effigies are usually made of papier-mache. They are either constructed at home or bought at pop-up vendors. Some families buy ones shaped like cartoon characters or superheroes. Other monigotes will look like people who have done bad things, such as local politicians.
    The effigies are stuffed with flammable items and messages before being burnt. These messages are usually lists of things that went wrong or people you want to forget. When the effigy is burning at its fullest, the owner then jumps through the flames. This is the final part of the cleansing ceremony of leaving behind all the bad, and entering the new year on a clean slate.
    As this new years eve also marks the end of a decade, this ceremony will have a more profound importance this year.
  • Wearing the correct underwear
    It is also believed that wearing certain coloured underwear will determine your year ahead. So on NYE, we wear either yellow underwear to symbolise prosperity, or red to symbolise love and passion.
    Similarly, the white candles lit in churches are replaced with coloured ones. Blue candles represent peace; red for passion, yellow for abundance and orange for intelligence.
  • Grapes at midnight
    Hailing from Europe, this tradition involves eating 12 grapes or cherries at midnight. It is believed that the grapes represent the 12 Apostles. However, today people associate them more with wishes. After each grape, we repeat “Voy a ser Feliz” which translates as “I will be happy.”

  • Viudas del Año Nuevo
    Probably the least conventional of all our traditions are the widows of the old year. These are men, dressed in drag that take to the streets and ask for donations. It is a sight to behold, and the men are often in good spirits and very playful.
    Kids and teenagers will also ask for donations. However, they will not be dressed in women’s clothes. They will hold up ropes so cars are unable to pass until they have paid for passage. The Viudas de Año Nuevo may also play these games but are usually more adamant than the teenagers when it comes to payment.

Concluding Thoughts

A lot of our New Year rituals stem from ancient Andean traditions. They involve releasing any negative energy and focusing on what you want to achieve over the next year.

What will you be focusing your energy on achieving in 2020? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d also love to hear about your own NYE traditions.