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Travel Ecuador - Experience Ecuadorian festivals

Updated on February 8, 2013

Festivals in Ecuador

I used to live in Guayaquil, Ecuador. One of my fondest memories living in this beautiful country in South America are the festivals. I am sure many countries have their own festivals but in Ecuador when it's festival time, it's a time to enjoy life and all the pleasures therein. I hope to illustrate some of these festivals, giving you my own experience having gone through some of them.

One of my favorite festivals occurs on December 31st and it's called año viejo, which translated means old year. This is an annual ritual of "burning off" the old year and getting ready to welcome the new year. It is celebrated by burning dummies filled with newspaper, firecrakers and anything else that can burn and be used to stuff dummies. Prior to the start of this celebration, masks go for sale throughout the country. These masks are put on the dummy to give it personality. The masks are comprised of everything from prominent celebrities, politicians, superheroes, and any famous or infamous person. Sometimes the dummies are stuffed not just with newspapers inside, but also with old lists of things you want to erase or get rid of: maybe bad memories, or debt, or things that have complicated your life. By burning it off, it symbolizes that you are finally getting rid of what's bothering you and you are ready to move ahead.

A few days before the dummies are burned, they can be displayed or paraded publicly. Some of the women or children dress in black and go to the streets asking for money to give the "dummy" a decent burial. Some children may go to the streets hold the ends of the rope loosely and when a car approaches they may tighten the rope so as not to allow the cars to pass by. The drivers would pay a small fee to pass through.

My experience: I recall one time my dad made one of these dummies and instead of putting a cigarrete he put a firecracker in its mouth. One of the dumb neighbors, thinking it was a real cigarrete wanted to light it up while striking up a conversation with the dummy.

After the head blew off the neighbor ran in panic and all of us had a great laugh.

When midnight of December 31 rolls around all these dummies are burned on the street with fireworks popping everywhere making it a magnificent display of fire all around the streets. Since I was only there as a kid and now I am reflecting back as an adult, I don't know how fire trucks would be able to come around in case of emergencies, since all these streets are littered with dummies everywhere. I do recall a feeling that I've feeling of warmth that I've never forgotten. It was a time when complete strangers out in the street congratulated and hugged each other for having lived and survived another year. It was a time to reflect back on all the events of the past year and it a time to start anew. Watching all the dummies burning with fireworks skyrocketing in the air was truly a sight to behold. I really think everybody should travel to Ecuador and experience it for themselves, I cannot truly put into words the spectacle, wonder, friendliness and reflection that you feel during that one day of the year.

Celebration of New year in Ecuador

Celebrating año viejo in Ecuador!

Another one of my most favorite festivals is Carnival. It comes around on February. It's a festival where the whole city celebrates with water. It's the one day where adults will come out of their houses only if they are adventurous. As soon as anybody starts to walk in the city during this day, they will get pelted with water ballons from everywhere. It's a great and grand celebration because it's the one day where it doesn't matter how rich or poor you are, we can all get involved in celebrating with these water ballons.

It's so much fun because everybody sometimes has to walk somewhere. The people walking the street will know that they will get pelted with water ballons; therefore those who are bold to come out tread carefully.

My experience: One time when Carnival celebrations began, I remember my parents had booked a hotel room for the night.I remember standing in the balcony of the hotel room ready with my water ballons to take my part in this celebration.

Because I was staying in a hotel, I could see the foreigners come into the lobby, all drenched and confused. I remember one American would say "What the hell kind of country is this", not realizing he came during the worst day he could probably come for foreigners. All the local people who were at the lobby couldn't help but to giggle a bit that day.

Carnival time celebration

Ecuador's carnival celebrations: water, paint, and fun

Dia de los Muertos (Difuntos)

This is a day celebrated in November 2, I believe. There are many holidays similar to this throughout the world and Ecuador is no exception. This is just a joyous celebration of those who have passed away. In this festival people visit graves of their family members and have picnics there. People remember their ancestors accomplishments and get renewed hope for the future. There is joyous celebration across the streets with people carrying the symbol of the day: skull and crossbones. Skulls and skeletons are paraded across the streets in joyous festivities. This traditional meal during this time includes guaguas de pan and colada morada. Guaguas de Pan are sweet bread made in shape of a person. Sometimes it has filling of jam inside and some icing on the outside. Colada morada is a drink made from cooking blackberries, blueberries, cinnamon, cloves, and other fruits and spices. It's delicious.

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Ecuador Celebrations..what do you think?

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    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      10 years ago

      Great stories! Welcome to All Things Travel.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      As I live in Barcelona, Spain, I am quite used to amazing festivals and carnivals, so I was interested to read about the Ecuador ones!

      I particularly like the Año viejo festival. The idea of getting rid of the things in life that you don't like with the old year is great!

      Here in Spain, we ring in the New Year by eating 12 grapes on each of the 12 beats of the clock! We end up with lots of juice running down our faces!


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