Like most of South America, they like to party in Ecuador – and what better time to celebrate than New Year? There’s no time for sitting down and watching the countdown on telly either, New Year in Ecuador is a community event, and even the smallest villages throw parties that rival the big cities. There are dozens of New Years traditions to observe too. Did you know, for instance, that you need to carefully consider what underwear you wear for New Year’s Eve? You’ll want to stick with yellow if it’s good luck and productivity you’re after, and red for love and passion. Thinking about ringing in the New Year in Ecuador? Read on to find out all about the quirkiest, kookiest New Years traditions in Ecuador.
Ecuadorian New Years Traditions
1. Light lots of candles
Lots of people light candles for loved ones in local churches all year round, but on New Year’s Eve it all takes on special importance. The colour you choose is important too. Instead of burning a traditional white candle, you should choose blue for peace, red for passion), yellow for abundance or orange for intelligence.
2. A New Years burning effigy
One of the most famous New Years Traditions in Ecuador is the iconic burning effigy – known locally as the Año Viejo tradition. In the week leading up to New Year, manigotes (effigies) appear outside houses and in town squares. These lifesize dolls usually imitate politicians and pop culture figures, such as Donald Trump, Sponge Bob or the President. They’re usually made from papier-mache and stuffed with paper and fireworks. It’s traditional to donate a small sum for the best-dressed effigies too, so it’s worth putting in some effort.
Then, at the stroke of midnight, they torch them. Setting them on fire burns away your od demons and brings happiness and prosperity for the new year. Traditionally, you should jump on the flames 12 times too, though this obviously comes with its own fire hazards.
The tradition dates back to 1895 when a yellow fever epidemic spurred family members to stuff coffins with the clothes of the dead and set them alight, purifying them from the disease and heralding a new beginning.
3. Wolf down some grapes
This tradition is common across much of Latin America and Spain. In Ecuador, according to tradition, you should eat twelve grapes at midnight. Each grape represents one of the twelve apostles, although today most people associate the grapes with wishes. Unlike the European tradition, you have to gobble down all of the grapes during the final minute of the old year – 12 grapes in 60 seconds. And, as you eat each grape, you should say “Voy a ser feliz,” or “I will be happy.” It’s a tough little challenge but those who manage it secure a whole year of good luck.
4. Expect to pay a fair few fines
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, you’ll likely face a few hurdles trying to get across town. Groups of children and teenagers block off the roads with ropes and chains, lifting them high enough to stop cars from moving forward. In order to get your car through, you’ll need to pay a small fee. It’s not all bad though, since it’s usually a good opportunity for a friendly photo opportunity.
5. Dress up like a widow
Viudas de Año Nuevo is another quirky Ecuadorian traditions. It means ‘Widow of the Old Year‘. Every year, men across the country will dress up in drag as widowed women, usually stuffing their clothes with balloons, donning elegant high heels and tiny skirts. Then, they’ll take to the streets and collect money from the cars on the streets, putting the money into a communal pot that will fund the big NYE party. There’s a lot of money to be made here too, with widows often walking away with USD $50–200. If you’re driving during the day, expect your journey to take a lot longer than usual – the traffic piles up.
Why are there so many widows? Because the effigies are almost always men, which leaves a lot of women without a husband.
6. Take a midnight dip
It’s not unusual to ring in the New Year with a refreshing swim, but in Ecuador, it’s a little different. This New Years tradition is less common in the city but if you’re near the beach, you’ll see plenty of midnight swimmers. People dress in white and wade into the water, where they throw flowers to the waves in honour of Yemanyá, the Goddess of the Sea. This tradition originated in Brazil and is common across the Pacific Ocean.
7. Enjoy some blockbuster fireworks
OK, we get it, name a city anywhere in the world and they probably ring in the New Year with fireworks too. But in Ecuador, they’re everywhere – from tiny villages to the big cities. You’ll find the most impressive pyrotechnic events in the big cities, like Salinas, Quito and Guayaquil but post-midnight is really when the fun begins when families run their own displays into the wee hours of the morning.