Today I thought I’d share a little about some of the New Year’s Eve traditions in my country… I’m sure they’ll bring a laugh or two.
The New Year celebration in Ecuador is just as much about the Old Year as about the New Year. Dolls known as “monigotes” are made of old clothes stuffed with newspaper and represent the “Año Viejo” or Old Year. Traditionally families make their own dolls, but they can also be purchased quite cheaply from street vendors.
A “testamento” or will is written, with a list of problems, disappointments, or difficulties experienced over the last year, as well as “wishes” for good things to happen in the new year. This will is placed inside the doll and burned with it at midnight. The idea is to leave all negativity behind, in the old year, and start afresh during this new year. Customarily once the doll is burning people jump over the fire. Once again, this is to symbolize leaving the old behind and jumping into the new.
Since this is the first time we have spent New Year’s Eve with Alexia and Julian, the talk got around to some of these traditions, and the kids got excited about doing some of them. We did get them a few fireworks to add to all the others being set off up and down the neighborhood. We live in a quiet, residential neighborhood, so it was quite a sight for us to see so many people out on the street celebrating. Talk about a lot of banging and lighting up of the skies!
Some of the quirkiest traditions have to do with people’s beliefs and superstitions – what is known here as “cábalas.” I’m not sure how that would be translated exactly, but the idea is to do certain things to ensure good luck and prosperity in the new year. One of the most popular cábalas consists in wearing new yellow underwear to bring luck in the New Year. We decided we considered ours a pretty “lucky” family, and agreed we could skip that tradition. But the kids did pull out suitcases, and at midnight joined other neighbors in a walk around the block… this is to attract travels in the new year. And oh, yes… while we did that we each had to eat twelve grapes (one for each month of the year), making a wish with each grape that we ate. We were laughing so hard I think we all forgot to make wishes.
In the end, we had a lot of wholesome, silly fun. And I guess one of the things that I like the most about the New Year’s celebration here is that it is definitely family oriented… even when people party, it is as a family. I must say I sure enjoyed it with my little family. 🙂