Wednesday, January 15, 2014


New Year’s Day (January 1):  On New Year’s Day, people still are partying far into the early hours of the morning.  The streets are quiet, a drastic change from the revelries of the night before.  Almost all of the businesses are closed and few people are out.  Of course, if I were out partying until the sun came up, I’d crash too. 

Maundy Thursday / Good Friday (varies):  Special Maundy Thursday services are held at church, and some people participate in the washing of the feet.  People in Quito will often visit the churches in the historical district.  A large colorful procession is the main event on Good Friday.  Some people carry heavy crosses along the way.  A special Good Friday mass in held, and people make a special meal made of 12 different grains and codfish to signify the 12 disciples of Jesus.  While many countries view Holy Saturday with graveness, Ecuador approaches it as a day of glorious celebration. Easter is also a day of celebration, beginning with services at church and following with a special luncheon and hunting for Easter eggs. 

Sorry, but the pointy hoods are creepy.  Like a purple KKK. With abs.  
International Worker’s Day (May 1):  This day celebrates the worker and is often used as a day for addressing current labor issues and labor achievements.  Ecuador has about 123,000 refugees from Colombia, escaping the violence in that country.  It’s also a stop in the drug trafficking trade, and there are some reports of child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking. 

The Battle of Pichincha (May 24): This battle was the last battle that took place when Ecuador was fighting for its independence from Spain.  It happened on a volcano called Pichincha, about 3500 meters (11500 feet) above sea level.  School kids will often participate in local parades and sometimes the military joins in as well.  The kids with the highest grades will often carry the flag during the procession.  This holiday tends to be centered around celebrating Ecuador’s history and displaying national pride. 

The Birthday of Simón Bolívar (July 24): Simón Bolívar is the military leader who is the one responsible for winning the independence for not only Ecuador, but also for Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru.  He’s often characterized as a national hero. There are often military parades and school parades with brightly colored traditional wear, complete with brass bands and dancing and waving flags.

Declaration of Independence of Quito (August 10):  Quito is where the independence for their country started. This was the day when people decided enough was enough.  It came at a time when Napoleon had invaded Spain and overtook the throne. Ecuadorians more of less took advantage of Spain’s instability, and over the next year, there were several battles, but eventually they did officially declare their independence.  Generally, the celebrations last most of the month of August, and include music concerts, parades, cultural displays, and local festivals. 

Independence of Guayaquil (October 9): This is the day that a group of patriots in Guayaquil overtook a military base just after midnight and detained some of the high-level commanders until dawn and then signed their declaration of independence.  Guayaquil is now a center for arts and culture and nicknamed “The Pearl of the Pacific.”  The city pretty much has a citywide party and everyone’s invited!

Flag Day (October 31): This is a day in honor of the Ecuadorian flag.  Flags are displayed from people’s homes and businesses all around. 

All Soul’s Day (November 2): This holiday blends religious beliefs with traditional beliefs.  It’s kind of similar to the Day of the Dead festival that takes place in other Latin countries where people honor those who have passed on before us.  It’s a common day to visit graves, do any maintenance, refresh flowers, etc.  One tradition is to make a sweet bread called guaguas de pan, or bread babies (which we will be making later).  These pieces of bread are shaped like a swaddled baby and decorated with icing.  It’s almost always accompanied by a purple drink called colada.  It’s like a smoothie mix of various fruits and sometimes sweet peppers and a variety of other ingredients.  (I’m attempting to make this as well).

Independence of Cuenca (November 3): Primarily celebrated in Cuenca, this holiday celebrates the declaration of independence by the City of Cuenca.  Basically, the whole town shuts down and has one big party.  Schools and business close, music and dancing fill the streets, local food vendors serve savory treats, and arts and crafts are displayed and sold.

Foundation of Quito (December 6):  Also known as Fiestas de Quito, it’s a week-long party celebrating the founding of the city of Quito.  There are many activities and events going on all week, ending on December 6.  Some of the common festivities and events include bullfighting, parades, music concerts, block parties, flamenco dancing, marching bands, fireworks, and many people ride what’s called a Chiva, which is kind of an open bus with a band. 

Christmas Day (December 25): Christmas in Ecuador is a month-long celebration. Nativity scenes are put up everywhere.  Many people take part in novenas: public gatherings of prayers, hymns, and poetry, and it’s followed by hot chocolate and cookies (yes, hot chocolate in summer).  Christmas Eve is usually spent having an elaborate dinner with family, complete with stuffed turkey or chicken, rice with cheese, salads, local fruits, and of course wine.  Parents usually leave the children’s presents at the foot of their beds, and Christmas Day is spent giving gifts with family and friends. 

New Year’s Eve (December 31):  One tradition in Ecuador on New Year’s Eve is to get rid of the bad things. Some people will make scarecrow-like dolls in the likeness of people they don’t like (I have a few in mind) or notable people, and then at the stroke of midnight, everyone burns them.  Another tradition some men do is to dress up like women and beg for beer money.  (Kids will also dress up and beg for candy.)  Beer is a must-have for any New Year’s festivities.  Many people wear masks and attend parties, some of them held as street parties – and of course, fireworks are lit off at midnight. 

Up next: art and literature

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