Traveling to a different culture is a mix of leaving your home and its traditions by the wayside and finding new milestones that connect us to the world at large. In Ecuador, the language, the culture, and the history of the country reveal clues to the roots of the present day society. One of the easiest ways to find your way is through the holidays around the country at any given time of the year.
Christmas celebrations and fiestas that mark the independence of cities such as Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca are matched by Holy Week parades and festivals that have been celebrated for centuries.
Cultural travel in Ecuador makes for an interesting variety of insights into the county. Each place you visit has its own traditions, some are nationwide-like New Years, and others are found in different towns-like the Mama Negra Festival in Latacunga.
The people of Ecuador seldom need an excuse to take to the streets to dance, come together around traditions including Day of the Dead, and to enjoy the festivities while fireworks light up the night sky. Keep reading for an abridged calendar of holidays and celebrations in Ecuador-starting in December and continuing on through February 2019.
Fiestas de Quito is a week-long party which ends of the day that Sebastian de Benalcazar founded the capital after the Inca burned it to the ground. In the present, the festivities are widespread from wooden cart races on Calle Mejía, a few blocks behind Plaza Grande-and street parties everywhere you look- matched by concerts in Casa de Musica and the city’s parks.
Baños-Ecuador, the perfect outdoor adventure center to the south of Quito-has its own week-long celebration that marks the city’s appointment of the capital of its province. People take to the streets in mass for parades, fireworks, music, and dancing under the watchful eyes of the nearby Tungurahua volcano.
The Pase del Niño in Cuenca, meaning “Walk of the Child,” brings out the country’s Catholic roots- people from all over Ecuador accompany the infant Jesus to church in the days before Christmas. Cuenca’s procession is the most enduring, as thousands of people join together to walk from Iglesia del Corazón de Jesús to the Iglesia del Carmen de la Asuncion.
Christmas Eve and Christmas in Ecuador are family time-people make the journey to their hometowns and join their relatives for formal dinners on the 24th, followed by social time with neighbors and friends on the 25th. During the whole month of December, nativity scenes appear outside homes and church services cumulate in midnight masses in provinces around the country.
The opposite of the formal family celebrations of Christmas, New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, finds people in the streets till the wee hours of the morning to ring in the New Year. Effigies of politicians, cartoon characters, movie stars and the like appear outside homes and businesses between the 26th and 31st of December-symbolizing the past year. At the stroke of midnight, the stuffed “Año Viejo,”is lit on fire to rid the new year of bad mojo and welcome the future with open arms.
Translated to “The Devils of Pillaro,” this annual tradition takes place in a small city close to Banos de Agua Santa. Thousands of “imps,” take to the streets in strange costumes and dance, with the main characters being the devil, the guaricha and capariche. The tradition dates back to the Spanish occupation when the indigenous people rebelled against the crown for forcing Catholicism into their lives.
Galapagos Province Day marks the anniversary that the Galapagos Islands were annexed by Ecuador in 1832. The date was followed by the newly formed republic sending prisoners to the islands as some of the first settlers. Today on the populated islands of Santa Cruz, Floreana, San Cristobal, and Isabela there are fiestas and competitions complete with music and dancing.
The discovery of the Amazon Rainforest by Francisco de Orellana was on the same day in 1541 when the Spanish explorer went downstream with a party of soldiers that would accidentally travel the whole length of the Napo and Amazon rivers. In the towns along the water, there are festivals and celebrations-bringing people from the nearby communities together for dance, music, and merriment.