First New Year’s Eve

Feliz Año Nuevo

I hope you all had a great and safe New Year’s Eve. We didn’t know what to expect here in Cuenca, so we spent the evening just waiting to see what happens at midnight. It was quite a spectacle. Instead of having huge fireworks displays put on by professionals, individual families held their own. The neighborhood was filled with fireworks, firecrackers, bottle rockets and fires.

Last week I included a picture of the masks for dummies that are sold in Cuenca for New Year’s Eve celebrations. These masks were for the monigotes (dummies, not stupid ones, but ones stuffed with paper, sawdust, cardboard or anything else that will burn). These muñecos (dolls) represent the año viejo (old year). The burning at midnight is a purification ritual to ward off bad luck (although a lot of Ecuadorians just light them on fire to watch them burn — because they can!) Another custom is to jump over the burning muñecos seven times, for good luck. Of course, by midnight many of those jumping over the flames have had a bit too much to drink, and a hospital visit is required. Our Spanish teacher told us that her father would jump over the muñecos holding one of the children! Her fiancee’s family no longer does this because they had a few accidents in the past.

Bob wanted to buy a monigote to burn, but I wasn’t sold on that. Luckily, he changed his mind before Thursday night. The booths selling these dummies sprung up all over the city just after Christmas. Here’s a few we saw:



The dummies come in all shapes and sizes —some cartoon characters, some political figures (an expat here was trying to find a Trump mask — don’t know whether she ever found it).

Some represent family members, too.






You could buy the masks and stuffed dummies separately and build your own.


These were less fancy dummies being sold across the street from our apartment. They were mostly headless and masks were added. People took a long time deciding on just the right dummy and mask for the head.
Fireworks are legal in Ecuador, but the vendors need a special license to sell them. Some of the dummies have firecrackers inside that go off when they burn. It makes for some excitement (especially when jumping over them!)

Here’s what it looked like at midnight (as the ball dropped in Times Square it was a very different experience here in Ecuador).
Muñecos burning in the street












Fireworks over Cuenca



There were also “widows”, men dressed in women’s clothing, stopping cars requesting financial aid to burn the old. (But mostly used to buy more beer.) We didn’t see many people giving them money, but we did see them almost get hit by cars not willing to stop.

Another tradition we actually took part in, was to eat 12 grapes at midnight, representing the 12 months of the year. The grapes we bought were huge and it took quite some time for me to eat them. (We cheated a bit, with Bob eating 6 and me eating 6 — figured that covered all 12 months.)

New Year’s Day was quiet, with most of the stores closed and people walking around much slower than usual as everyone recovered from the previous night.

That’s about it for this week — we wish you health, happiness and prosperity in 2016.
(Peace, love and all that other stuff, too!)

Hasta luego!


PS Please note that I have finally learned how to put the little squiggly thing over the ñ. Google is amazing and it was so easy I feel like an imbecile. Of course, now I will be searching for Spanish words with that thingy so I can show off.

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