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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Savant

A Fiery New Year's Eve

Updated: Dec 9, 2020


In Ecuador, people celebrate New Year's Day in a very original way.

At the end of the year, individuals take a set of their clothes and stuff them with newspapers, creating a dummy of themselves, complete with a papier-mâché mask of their likeness. At night or during the day, they burn the doll with friends and family, each of the witnesses jumping over the flames once or more.

I had been invited to a combination birthday party and New Years celebration last night. After dinner, the music was set booming and guests danced in the darkness, lighting paper lanterns and releasing them to float over Cuenca in the darkness. Finally, the effigy of the person, in this case the birthday boy, was set on fire and each of the party attendees jumped over the flames.

It was a lot of fun, and I asked what the representations meant. The paper floating lanterns represented the bad things of the past year being released, the dummy representing the bad times and bad things that occurred to them in the past year being burned away. Jumping over the flames was an act of good luck for the year ahead. Around town, there were thousands of these occurrences on the public streets.

In the midst of the darkness and guests, again I felt like an extra thumb, but was warmly welcomed by the family and friends. One of the guys attending spotted my bike in the darkness and wanted to hear the story. He owned a small motorcycle repair shop in town and was very excited to see a big adventure bike. He asked for one of my travel decals for his shop window and I was happy to give him one or three. We talked a while since he spoke English, and after a few minutes he put something in my hand. I looked down to see a well worn $5 bill. I said "no", of course, but he insisted and said he wished he had more to give me, because it might help sometime. I thanked him and told him I'd write his name on it as a good luck gift.

That's the people of Ecuador folks...

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