The End of the ‘Old Year’ in Ecuador

New Year’s Eve evokes many different sentiments around the world. In Ecuador, the last night of the year is a time of reflection, sadness for goals unaccomplished in the past year, happiness that certain occurrences of the year are long gone, and an overall nostalgia about how quickly our lives come to pass us by at times.

Representing these sentiments regarding the year past is the 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 literally translates as “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. Right at midnight, the año viejo is burned – with pyrotechnics. Depending on the occurrences of the year past, tears are often shed. One shares a hug with each person present as well as wishes for a year full of blessings, success, and happiness. Such wishes are expressed throughout the beginning of the year as one sees friends and acquaintances for the first time in the new year.

Other important (and fun!) traditions on New Year’s Eve in Ecuador are to wear yellow underwear in hopes of a prosperous year ahead, eat twelve grapes at midnight – one right after the other (no small feat!), and walk around the block with suitcases in hopes of traveling in the new year. New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is filled with tradition, reflection, and fun.


People in Quito purchasing everything they will need for New Year’s celebrations


A few ‘año viejos’ seen on the street of Tumbaco outside Quito, including a ninja turtle and Chucky


                                   The old year I burned this year                                      (probably shouldn’t say who it represents)

















Getting ready to walk around the block with our suitcases in hopes of many travels in 2015!


The burning of the old year – the works!

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