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New Year’s Eve or Año Viejo celebrations in Ecuador

Jumping over the burning Año Viejos in Ecuador

These are some of the most popular and fun traditions for celebrating New Year’s Eve or Año Viejo in Ecuador. People usually hang out with friends and family during the day. For my last visit to Ecuador we had a “chanchada” or pork cook out party with my brother’s in laws family. At night time, especially in small towns, there are celebrations and dancing on the streets – usually in the main square. At midnight everyone brings out their Año Viejo figures or effigy dolls, make a large pile, and burns them to represent burning the old year. Here’s a quick overview of some of my favorite Ecuadorian traditions for celebrating the end of the year:


The Año Viejo figure or Old Year effigy doll

We make (or buy) a life size effigy or dummy that represents the old year and to burn it at midnight. These dolls are usually made to look like celebrities or politicians, both local and international. The effigy can be someone who died during the year or who made a lot of headlines, it can also be someone people really love or someone they really hate. Did I mention that politicians were very popular Año Viejos? There are neighborhood contests for the best Año Viejo and you can either make your own or buy them already made.

Burning the Año Viejo effigies in the street in Ecuador

At midnight you burn your effigy, in a large pile on the street. Some {brave} people jump over the fire three times for good luck – this is easier to do if the pile is smaller, but a challenge for larger piles. Or if you’ve been drinking all day/night.

Año Viejo doll masks for sale

Las Viudas or the Widows

It shouldn’t be a surprise that when the Año Viejo or Old Year passes on, he leaves a Viuda or Widow, who needs financial support. At least that’s the logic. During the day on the 31st, you will see guys who dress up in black dresses (or any dress) and wear wigs/make-up. They will go to popular intersections or parks and stop cars/passerby’s asking for money. They are usually very dramatic; they dance, and also cry about how their beloved Año Viejo has died. It is hilarious. In small towns you will usually know most of the guys who are dressed as viudas – which makes it even more entertaining. Oh, and the money they get will be used to buy beer/drinks to celebrate at night.

The widows or Viudas stopping cars for money on New Year's Eve

Testamentos or The Will/Testament

When someone dies they leave a will or testament for their family. The Año Viejo is no exception and he/she makes sure to leave a funny tongue in cheek written will for the family or the whole town. The testament will mention events from the old year – the good, the bad, the funny – that are somewhat satirical and involves listing items and/or advice that you would leave to your friends/family/famous people so that they will make better choices or be better off in New Year. These testaments can be written in the form of a basic letter, a rhyming poem, a song, etc. They can be read at the town or family celebrations or even displayed as posters next to Año Viejos on display. They are usually very creative and very politically incorrect. There are also contests for people to submit their testaments.

Año Viejo and Testament display in Ecuador

La Maleta or running around the block with a suitcase

This is one of my favorites and I make everyone do this tradition even here in the US (yeah, the neighbors think we’re crazy). It’s pretty easy: at midnight take an empty suitcase and run around the block with it. This will bring you good travels and adventure in the New Year. Add some coins or cash to your suitcase, so you that can you also have some prosperity – or stay at decent hotels during your travels. If you don’t live on a block or it’s one of those very long blocks, you can just run up and down the street for a minute or even around the house.

Los Calzones Amarillos or the Yellow Underwear

If you are in Ecuador (or other Latin American countries during the end of December don’t be surprised to see people selling yellow underwear on the street. People believe that if you are wearing yellow underwear at midnight you will have good luck and prosperity in the New Year. If you are looking for love/passion then wear red. I’m trying to find some yellow ones with red hearts.

Las Doce Uvas or the 12 Grapes

This tradition is common everywhere from Spain to Latin America. Eat 12 grapes at midnight, each grape represents a month in the New Year. Ask for a wish with each grape that you eat. Some people say that if you eat them under the table you will be extra lucky.

Grapes for good luck in the New Year

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  1. Hey! Thank you for remind me the craziness of the Anio Viejo in Ecuador.
    Lots of good memories despite all the alcohol consumption!
    Very best,
    Frank Castaneda
    VA, USA

  2. What a great summary of the traditions I experienced living in Loja! I’m drafting a blog on the año viejo tradition and I’m so glad I found your post so I can link my readers to this 🙂

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