Celebrating the New Year

Dolls

Some of the masks are frighteningly realistic.

Holidays in general seem to be more lively here in Ecuador and New Year’s Eve is certainly no exception. It all started a few days before the 31st as we noticed a variety of vendors appearing on street corners and near other high traffic areas. All the vendors were selling the same thing – life-sized dolls called monigotes that are stuffed with newspaper and sawdust along with paper-mâché masks for the dolls to wear.  Some masks are of political figures, while others are cartoon characters, family members, or just an average unrecognizable face.

Burning Man

Kids on our street burning one of their dolls.

As we soon discovered, Ecuadorians have a tradition of buying these dolls…and burning them!  (Known as quemando el Año Viejo). It’s their way of putting the old year behind them (by burning it) and moving forward into a new year.   Some Ecuadorians will even jump over the dolls while they are burning to further symbolize the fact that they’re leaving the old year behind.

We didn’t have the guts to jump over a burning doll, but maybe next year. Still, we had plenty of fun watching people burn their dolls (often stuffed with firecrackers) and set off TONS of fireworks until well after midnight. Angela’s mom has been in town for the last several days, so we all got to ring in the new year together.

Chiva

Getting ready to board the chivas.

Some friends from school also organized a “chiva” ride through the city. A chiva is a party bus that’s like a cross between a bus and a flatbed truck (see photo). Each chiva holds about 40 people in its giant, semi-protected enclosure and it even has strobe lights and a DJ who plays American dance music! We had about 80 people in our group and we crammed into two chivas for a 2 hour ride through the city. It was a challenge to dance while driving, but we made some good attempts anyway. We also brought tons of candy and had fun tossing candy to people on the street and even tossing candy through open car windows and sunroofs.

Though we continue to miss family and friends and holiday traditions that we have enjoyed for years, we’re doing our best to make the most of our time here. We had a great New Year’s Eve and hope that you all did as well. We’re looking forward to a great 2013, though we’re hoping that it won’t be quite as eventful as 2012! =)

On the Chiva

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doug January 2, 2013 Ecuador