Saying goodbye to the ‘Old Year’ in Ecuador


Widows on the streets of Quito on New Year’s Eve
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New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is perhaps one of the holidays most full of tradition in this Andean country that becomes quite sentimental as one year ends and another begins. Festivities begin in the evening with men out on the street dressed as widows asking for money in the streets. If you are anything like me the first time I heard of this tradition, upon hearing ‘widows’ you pictured guys dressing up as little old ladies. Oh, how wrong I was. To my surprise on my first New Year’s Eve in Ecuador in 2003, I learned that these widows are quite young and quite provocative. Men dress up in drag and stop traffic in the streets for hours on New Year’s Eve asking for money, you know, since their husbands have died.    The most important of all the new year traditions is to have an año viejo – a rag doll or a papier maché doll representing a famous person, a cartoon character, a social issue, or just about anything its creators thought of.

Año viejo

Años viejos for sale in Quito
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Año viejo literally means ‘old year’ and represents all the occurrences – especially the painful or negative ones – of the year that is coming to an end. Each family or group of people celebrating together has one año viejo and these can be made at home or purchased on the street. Many people opt for just purchasing a mask to put on their homemade rag doll. While some people wait until the last minute to purchase one or to put one together at home, others have theirs ready a week or so in advance and tie them to their cars and take them around town. There are contests throughout the country for the most elaborate and most creative año viejos. These are enormous pieces of art on display in the street – here the translation of ‘rag doll’ does not do justice.

Año viejo del Chavo

Año viejo of a famous television character – El Chavo del 8

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