Celebrating New Year’s in Ecuador

Kids celebrating in Ecuador
Kids celebrating in Ecuador

Ecuadorians really know how to party, and New Year’s Eve is no exception.  If you’re in Ecuador for this super fun holiday, you’re going to experience many of the same traditions (like kissing at midnight), and a lot of very traditions you’ve probably never seen before.  We’re here to fill you in on everything you need to know so you can get in on the fun if you’re lucky enough to to ring in the New Year’s in Ecuador.

The center of the festivities is the “Año Viejo” (or “Old Year”), which is doll made out of paper mache.  At midnight on New Year’s Eve, they are lit on fire to say adios to the old year, and to make room for the new year.  If you head down to Avenida Amazonas in Quito on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find an Año Viejo contest, with a huge variety of dolls, all very creative, unique, and often humorous.  You may see Años Viejos that can be enormous, small, or resemble people from all walks of life, even certain politicians.

To me, the idea of burning a human shaped doll seems fairly threatening, and brings up images from our history of witch hunts or burning heretics at the stake.  So I asked my friend Cristina, who lives in Quito, about it.  She told me that burning the Año Viejo is a symbol of getting rid of all the old fears and bad experiences from the past year in order to have a fresh, new start to the new year.  Cristina has a family tradition that she adds to their Año Viejo.  She writes a letter filled with all of her wishes and hopes for the new year, and she burns this letter along with the Año Viejo.  And she claims it works — each of her wishes has come true.

If you’re out on the town on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be in the middle of a huge party, and you’re going to see a lot of local traditions.  You’ll see men dressed as women dancing in the street.  They are pretending to be the widows of all the Años Viejos.  They are celebrating getting rid of the old, and making room for the new.  Who wouldn’t want to dance to that?

At midnight, Ecuadorians will be eating grapes.  One grape for each chime of the clock at midnight (I couldn’t quite figure out the meaning behind this, so if you find out, let me know).  You’ll definitely want to wear some yellow.  Wearing yellow on New Year’s Eve is going to bring you luck in the new year.  You’ll see Ecuadorians lighting three candles at midnight: one for health, one for money, and one for love.  You’ll see fireworks.  And make sure you spread the love at midnight and kiss a few people.

For all you travelers out there, make sure you fill a suitcase full of clothes and run around the block at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  This is sure to bring new adventures and lots of traveling.

Once you’ve run around the block at midnight on New Year’s lugging a suitcase, give us a call, and we will take care of the rest!  Want to hang out with indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon?  Done.  Want to swim with penguins in the Galapagos Islands?  No problem.  This year will be full of adventures for you!

If you want to ring in the New Year in Ecuador, we’ve got you covered.  Just check out Detour’s many adventures in Ecuador and we can help plan the trip of your dreams!