Galapagos Travel Tips & News by HAUGAN CRUISES
Come and Celebrate Carnival With Us
You’ve all heard of Rio Carnival. Right? Some of you may even have visited. Well, Ecuador has one too, and if you ask me, this one is far better!
As with many of our celebrations, Carnival is a Catholic ritual infused with Andean traditions. Its purpose is to free any craziness and have as much fun as possible before the start of Cuaresma (Lent).
And boy, do they have fun!
The Fusion of Celebrations
As I mentioned earlier, Carnival marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic calendar. It usually starts on a Wednesday and encourages the practice of patience and sacrifice. Thus, the Tuesday before Lent became known as Fat Tuesday.
Although technically Fat Tuesday is the official day of Carnival, Ecuadorians start their celebrations the weekend before, with the whole country recognising Monday and Tuesday as public holidays.
Carnival also ties in with the indigenous celebration of the March Equinox, Pakwar Raymi, which honours the early harvest, and flowers and fruits – it is because of this celebration that you might spot a few Diablo Huma’s in the parade. It is also believed that the use of water during the celebrations is to honour and give thanks to the fertile land.
As well as the main parade, there are also various music and food festivals – as each city is different, it is worth checking in with your local tourist centres to find the full itineraries.
But the main attraction of Carnival is the craziness itself! The idea of this celebration is to get all the fun out of your system before the start of Lent; that way, you won’t be tempted to cheat or fail during the build-up to Easter.
It is common practise to douse people with LOTS of water; don’t be shocked if you see people pouring buckets from their windows or off of roofs. And don’t be offended if someone hits you with a water balloon or gets you with their water gun. It’s all fun and games, and as a tourist the locals want you to have a full Ecuadorian experience.
It’s also worth noting that it may not just be water you get hit with – party foam, eggs and oils are also used — basically anything liquid.
The communities closer to the Andes take this a step further and throw colourful flour, which then sticks to your hair and wet patches (caused by the party foam or water) – and when I stay sticks, I mean it really sticks to your hair.
Drinking During Festival
This is a great celebration for adults as it allows us to let loose and go crazy for a weekend. As such, a lot of alcohol consumption takes place over the four-day festival.
The traditional drink is chicha de Jora, a drink similar to beer, made from corn. It is a delightful yellow colour and used for many celebrations in Ecuador. During Carnival, you see chicha de Jora distributed along the streets and enjoyed from morning until night.
The town of Guaranda is home to an infamous liquor called Pajaro Azul – which is widely enjoyed during these celebrations. It is also worth pointing out that Guaranda has a reputation for having the wildest celebrations, so if you are going to be in Ecuador for Carnival, then I recommend heading here for the weekend.
The Carnival Parade
No carnival is complete without an epic parade. In fact, most carnivals are known purely for their parades. In Ecuador, our parade celebrates our people. For example, in Quito and Ambato, they celebrate cultures across the whole of Ecuador. While small towns like Guamote and Guaranda focus more on the mountain cultures of the Quichua. However, all parades (usually taking place on a Monday) feature floats, dancers and traditional Andean music.
Over the years, the parades have taken on items from other parades such as Madi-Gras which has allowed them to grow in size and popularity. However, the essence of the Carnival has never changed.
The celebration is a colourful one and requires everyone to participate – whether you want to or not.
It is messy, fun, wild and genuinely is something to behold.
If you’ve experienced our Carnival before, we’d love to hear about your experience! Especially the crazy stories.